Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Day of the Dead -- in D.C.

By Kelly Jean Cogswell

802 words

I've had the flu this week, and things seem even more horrifying than usual what with the fever and the snot and the cold medicine, and a Saturday night full of death's heads.

Before the Giants and Redskins game and the Ugly Betty Marathon, I got an eyeful of Saddam with a noose around his neck, then him as a dead guy peeking from a sack.

Afterwards there was the motorcade of dead President Gerald Ford winding through D.C. before his flag-draped box was carried inside the Capitol Rotunda where the carrion crows pasted on their mournful faces, and jostled for camera angles.

Meanwhile there was footage of James Brown's gold coffin passing through the streets of New York, then his sequin-filled, musical send-off by mostly second rate musicians so nobody would upstage the king, the godfather, the hardest working man in showbiz.

What fodder for nightmares. Saddam's bruised strangled face followed by James' waxen, artificial one, all with Ford's star-spangled coffin in the background. All you needed was a raven crying, "Nevermore," or maybe, "Jump Back!"

That's horror, from beginning to end. Starting with the American idea that Saddam's execution might hold some elements of redemption. The Butcher of Baghdad is tried, convicted, sentenced, killed. Long live democracy.

Never mind that only pervs keep humans locked in a cage, and pull them out at their leisure and kill them. Or that a bad puppet government may prefer a little vindictive irony by hanging Saddam on the first day of the Muslim festival remembering Abraham's readiness to slaughter his own son for God. Let's do the bastard.

Ford's death alone wouldn't have moved me. I like his wife better. She spoke her mind, told the truth about her cancer, then addictions, when it must have hurt.

But after Saddam's hanging it was hideous to watch the former Prez's corpse slide across our TV sets in his flag-draped coffin, newscasters replaying tapes of him privately condemning the Iraq war as if there were something particularly presidential about sitting on your hands while you watch a crime.

Bush must be sorry to see him go, the president best known for Nixon's pardon. Bush is gonna need a boatload of his own, and not for spying on Democrats, but the trifles of starting illegal wars, signing off on torture, kidnapping, and just a little wiretapping.

He shouldn't worry. Somebody will give him a break. Politicians take care of their own. That's what I thought about, after seeing Ford. Keep your head down, pardon your friends, for that you get a parade and a flag-draped box. Can't have too many of those.

And we don't. They are a dime a dozen these days -- only without the parade. Without the cameras and motorcades and photographers.

There's a ban on them "shooting" dead American soldiers being shipped back from Iraq in their own flag-draped coffins. Neither do we see much footage of Iraqi corpses on the ground if they weren't old ones created by Saddam.

Of the three, only James Brown's gold coffin stayed out of my dreams. I didn't even mind his waxen face underneath, in death as in life. Maybe because there was less separation for him.

He understood the artifice of art, the man who never just came back for an encore, but pretended to let his assistants drape him with one more extravagant cloak and lead him away, then shook it off for one last number or two that had the crowd screaming with joy. See what I sacrifice? he seemed to say. See my love? And when he sang... Lord. Every note told the truth.

Not like in Washington, where this week, Nancy Pelosi and company will do that inaugural voodoo that politicians do so well, pretending, but with no self-consciousness at all, to exorcise the House and Senate of Republicans, while leaving an empty shell anything at all could colonize.

Expect the ghosts of 9/11, the Patriot Act, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and all the lesser evils of anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-environment, anti-poor, anti-elderly, anti-everything but money legislation.

The Democrats will say the right things for a while, make the right gestures, because you don't lose anything with a gesture, unless your handlers are so ham-handed they have you land on a destroyer in a jumpsuit with a big sign declaring victory as you set off a civil war.

I hear Bush even slept through Saddam's hanging, the thick rope being put around his neck, the taunts, the door dropping open. Nobody woke him to say it was done.

That's how we begin a new year, a new Congress, with a coffin in the Capitol Rotunda. And coffins in Iraq. And Afghanistan and Darfur, and elsewhere. It'll take a lot of flags to cover them all.

Visit Kelly Sans Culotte at http://kellyatlarge.blogspot.com.

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