September 12, 2007

How We Live Now


This September, as in most Septembers, the days have been hot and parched here in the upper reaches of California's Imperial Valley. This year, as in most years, wildfires have been stalking the region sealing the old folks, the ecosensitives, and the ever-proliferating hypo-allergenic inside behind their oxygen canisters, filters, and mounds of medications. The local TV weathermen make much of little, delivering the particulate count as if every second carbon atom spelled doom for untold numbers of weakened and afflicted Americans. It's all part of the shameful litany of vulnerability chanted so often that many previously tough Americans come to believe they are as insubstantial as moonlight at noon.

The valved hum of the Highway 99 rolls relentlessly beyond the buttresses of the razor-wire fence and medical offices. The artery flows north and south through Chico, elevated until it drops down into the tabletop mesas towards Oroville on one end and the rolling walnut orchards towards Red Bluff. From both directions the road pumps into town, after the morning rush, the hardcore unemployed, the morbidly obese, and those obsessed with vapid shopping sprees in sleek aisles bracketed by cheap Chinese chintz. It brings them in to the all-you-can-stuff-in Country Town Buffets and the big box stores of Costco and Wal-Mart. Hard to figure that with so many working we can still have so many with nothing very special to do with their lives, but that is why we have daytime shopping networks and enough free parking at the mall to handle everyone who might, just might, show up on December 23rd. This is how we live now.

It's Tuesday, six years on from that much more memorable September Tuesday in New York City. To an extent, the qualities of today here in California mimic that day. Clear and calm and not all that hot. The light breeze moves the surface of the apartment complex's pool just enough to put a ripple on the clear water of the cool chemical soup. Every so often a car playing old rock anthems cruises into the parking lot with some half-heard lyric…. "Won't get fooled again?"…. too faint and quick to know for sure. The tennis courts bake in the afternoon sun but it is unlikely that they'll be used. They not much more than a selling point for a property purchase. It's how we live now.

Through the ground floor windows of the apartments here at night I note the proliferation of the large plasma screens washing the rooms they dominate in an endless retinal massage of football players, fools, and TV personalities such as Oprah interviewing other TV personalities such as Letterman in an endless round of media auto-fellatio. Mesmerizing meaninglessness. Just what the doctor ordered. Tomorrow, the expected sun and the expected heat and the expected high level of particulate boogey-men will be back to fade the parched concrete by the pool a still lighter shade of grey. Tennis courts and swimming pools can't hope to compete with pure plasma, xBox ecstasy, "social software," porn-on-demand and Grand Theft Auto. It's how we live now, a reality faded media gray.

Six years back the New York winter had faded the faces of "the missing" by February. Faded even those their loved ones had sealed in plastic. Earlier than that (Was it before Christmas?) the spontaneous shrines of candles, keepsakes, images and children's sad art signed by whole "second, third, fourth grade class" that appeared in Penn Station and elsewhere across Manhattan had vanished over one weekend. Somewhere in the system officials had decided that enough was, at last, enough and had the tokens taken to wherever such tokens are taken. Perhaps the landfill in New Jersey where so much of the Ground Zero refuse, once hauled out of the pit, was taken to be sifted by ever-finer screens for something that resembled human remains. Perhaps that is where all those millions of pieces of fourth period art went. Difficult to know. Nobody was tracking. That was how we lived then.

How we live know is in a space where the blood-oath "Never forget!" has been essentially "disappeared" as well. Instead, the oath has become -- at most -- the question, "Have you forgotten?" popularized a year or so back by a maudlin Country and Western tune of some distinction but little note. Once a blood-oath becomes a question the answer is always -- for most -- "Yes."

For those who have not forgotten and who still hold to the oath of "Never forget," such an answer affirms only the shallowness and self-deceit of the growing mass of fellow citizens weary of war at six removes; those eager to "move on." And while this is not unexpected nor even incomprehensible, it is disheartening to see the shameless use of this urge daily -- most explicitly in the work of the hyper-traitors that compose the group of the same name; a group that seems always fully funded and well beyond any consequence as yet for their treason, and for which pride in treason seems to be a necessary line on the membership application. This too is how we live now.

Well, what of it? Let those diseased with decadence, dead of heart, steeped in cowardice, roiled by hate of that which nurtures them, and possessed of souls riddled with the chancres of the spirit tattoo these marks upon themselves. The better to know them in a future time. Such beings always proliferate in the dark passages of history; and always play on the mindlessness of the masses. It is their insect nature. You can see it in the species from the maggot men of Palestine on up the mold chain to the preening Congressman prattling about "patriotism" while selling his country out for tin or a tickle. There will be more. Mark them well. It is how we live now.

How else should we live now that, for the mass, the first fear has faded and no more bad days have come their way? You can't promote a war of survival when your politics have only promoted a time of "perfect public safety here at home." The argument that "there have been no attacks" is not just a desperate demonstration of efficacy, but at the same time a perverse demonstration to the senses that there is indeed no real war here at all.

A war is not demonstrated by an absence of attacks on the homeland. That merely demonstrates the convergence, on a day to day basis, of somewhat effective methods of interdicting attacks, no little luck, and the forbearance of the enemy to engage directly what can be won more easily by disengagement. Enemies do not strike to enrage the foe, but to kill them in large numbers and break their will to resist. Absent the capability to do that, a wise enemy who thinks in Biblical spans of time, will do little of large moves and many minor ones. The London Blitz was such that no British citizen was in doubt that a great number of Germans were working night and day to kill him. A war of attrition against American soldiers in a distant land with a casualty rate so insignificant that each killed of wounded soldier can be lionized is hardly a war that presses home its lethality to the vast mass of work-crazed or leisure-soaked Americans.

The absence of enemy action at home is seen, over years, as an absence of an enemy, as an absence of intent, as no war at all. One can easily fall under the spell of this month's cover story in the Readers Digest, "The Miracle of Sleep." One can be lulled into the illusion of peace on earth just sitting here by the swimming pool while the old man beyond the fence walks his dachshund from the comfort of his motorized wheel-chair while his grandson in cut-offs and a t-shirt pedals lazy circles around him on one of those retro red Schwinns that is suddenly – like so many other ironic and harmless artifacts of the 1950s – back in style again. Back to the fifties with the aging children of the sixties – O paragons of cowardice -- in control of the Congress. It's how we live now.

War? Ask not what is it good for, but where is it? Ask also how long you think this luck will last.

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Posted by Vanderleun at September 12, 2007 4:20 PM | TrackBack
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Another fine essay. But what is the conclusion, the "take away"?

Perhaps it is this, America and Western Civilization as a whole are finished, and it is time that the barbarian (muslim? liberal?) wave wash the debris away so that something new can be born.

Posted by: Bob Sykes at September 13, 2007 5:41 AM

Something tells me that history will pay us a visit within 12 months. If the U.S. does strike Iran, I do not envision Iran going quietly into the good night, whispering apologies and mea culpas. I DO, however, envision our magnificent leaders in Washington strutting before the cameras like the cocks they are...putting all of us through endless rounds of "What did he know and when did he know it?" and "Why didn't he connect the dots?". All of this would be combined with calls from groups such as stating that there had better not be a response. After's only one city and the mushroom cloud will probably dissipate in a few hours. No harm done.

Posted by: gabrielpicasso at September 13, 2007 7:52 AM

Too many are convinced there is no enemy or, if there is, he's really no threat. Too many believe this country is so deeply flawed we deserve to lose. Too many believe the President is stupid and venal, waging war for fun and profit. Too many won't take the time to inform themselves of what is at stake. They'd rather watch the big plasma and listen to big media campaign against whatever it is that Bush tries to do. Yes, as you say, it's the way we live now.

In a savage land where the summer temperature soars into the hundreds, where sand and dust infiltrate every nook and cranny, and where a long, hot shower is an unheard of luxury, incredible young men and women daily place their lives on the line. They get minimal support from their fellow citizens, their lives are hard, and the danger from IEDs is ever present. But they do not want to quit, they have not lost sight of finishing the mission, and they shake their heads in sad resignation over those at home who raise the flag of retreat and defeat. That's the way they live now.

May God have mercy on us when we can no longer find such warriors who will forsake the mall, the gaudy materialism, the media spectaculars, the ease and warmth of home to go stand on the wall and defend our freedom.

Posted by: Jimmy J. at September 13, 2007 9:52 PM

I have to say that all the above sentiments are included in my own pessimistic outlook on the future. To sum things up: it looks bleak for civilization. We can see with our own eyes how it was that the Romans disintegrated from within. It looks like we'll continue to decline unless some miracle occurs. I guess the leftists won't mind the horrors that they are heading us toward. Better to live under "a great, strong leader", like a Putin, Castro, Noriega, Chavez or any of the other nut jobs these asses seem to gravitate to. Mandatory check-ups? Thanks for your concern John but I'd rather you stay the hell out of my body. Perhaps we'll do better under a one party system (sarcasm). We can call it the Democratic Party. Or better yet: The American Social Democratic Party.

Today, in D.C., a band of patriots called The Gathering of Eagles stand against the hordes of 'rats which include Code Pink, Anarchists, Truthers, and other Cindy Sheehan/Ron Paul type wackos. We won't hear much about the Eagles, but the leftist propagandist press will surely advise that Cindy et al were there...making noise. It is funny how these types "care about the troops" when they can contort it into their scheme to win the White House. I was able to attend GOE 1 last March 15th and would have to say that it really was great enjoying my First Amendment rights, letting these fellow homo sapiens (Hitler and Stalin were also. I can't call them human or people, though) know what I think of them.

I've done what I can. I try to stay informed. I vote. My two adult children and I have been in the military. My son is in Law Enforcement (the left would call him "a pig") and has occasion to patrol and protect a major bridge for all of us, including the America haters that cross along with the rest of us.

My daughter proudly fought for freedom for Iraqi's. She is preparing now for future deployments after she graduates from West Point. I'll be getting more calls from "over there" telling me crap like she's not allowed to shoot back at snipers unless she can positively identify their position and about the IED's that she survived.

I'll again endure many sleepless nights. The thought of her next deployment brings tears to my eyes right now, but she is an adult, a patriot, and she wants freedom for all people. And it really pisses me off when I know the leftists "want to bring the troops home" when all they really want to do is have Bush and America lose this war.

Gerard, my family hasn't forgotten September 11, 2001.

Posted by: JD at September 15, 2007 10:21 AM

Maybe that is the way some of us live now. Not others. We do work to support the troops in the right way. We still believe in the goodness, rightness and power to attrack others of our way of life. The may be those who denigrate that way of life but most of the rest of the world does want what we have to offer. Those are the ones we need to listen to, not the loud, obnoxious and offensive tools of that defeated ideology responsible for more deaths last century than any other - Communism.

God Bless the USA. Do not lose faith in what is truly right or we shall surely be lost.

Posted by: Robohobo at September 15, 2007 8:58 PM

Another work of art, Gerard. Thanks for the public service.

Posted by: Uncle Mikey at September 18, 2007 1:07 PM
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