Monday, August 29, 2011

After the Flood

By Kelly Jean Cogswell

My girlfriend and I snuck out of New York well ahead of Irene’s arrival, but didn’t miss much here in the Catskills what with the rain that came pouring down, and the creek roaring up, and the wind hurling tree branches against the cabin roof. The electricity is out again, and for the first time in years I’m writing with paper and a pen.

Between all that, and the earthquake that had our Manhattan apartment dancing around last week, I feel comfortable announcing the world is coming to an end. Or should. I’ve been longing to see an end to the world in which we Americans pretend to be invulnerable in every way, though all it takes is a nice sized hurricane to disable our aging East Coast cities that are already losing ground to warming oceans. And the collapse of any segment of our financial infrastructure, like, say, the housing market, can bring our economy to its knees. Likewise for our broken political system that comes to a halt on the federal level every time some Tea Party monkey throws a wrench.

America seems increasingly ridiculous. Like a naked wrinkled Lear raging at a storm, but with even less a chance of coming to our senses. And it’s only going to get worse. In a little over a week it will be September 11th and the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Politicians of all stripes will hover like vultures claiming the dead for themselves. Waving them like flags over struggling presidential campaigns. Eating them for breakfast. Using them as excuses to prolong wars, or conversely to retrench at home. To build bunkers. To prevent mosques. To celebrate the deaths of the likes of Osama Bin Laden who will no doubt be resurrected for the occasion, then killed again at will. To declare above all, that America is number one and a bunch of terrorist thugs can’t take that away from us.

I used to think only New Yorkers had a right to mourn all those secretaries, and delivery guys and stockbrokers and waiters, and cleaning people, and IT folks, and cops and firemen lost at the World Trade Center. Now, I believe the dead belong only to themselves. And we should raise no monuments to them. Including the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr. whose new creepy fascistic memorial was featured in the same edition of The New York Times that revealed the increasing ways black and minority Americans are being disenfranchised all over the U.S. with voter drives being thwarted, and federal I.D.’s required.

There was also a story about James Craig Anderson, a black man robbed and beaten by a group of white teenagers, then mowed down by one of their pickup trucks in a hotel parking lot. There’s not much to do in Jackson, Mississippi, so let’s play scare the nigger. Extra points if he’s fag.

Yeah, that’s right. It took the Times twelve paragraphs to reveal this “family” man’s partner was a guy and together they were raising a relative’s kid. And only a couple more paragraphs for Times writer Kim Severson to announce sexual orientation wasn’t a factor at all, even though she did report the driver, Deryl Dedmon had been accused earlier of gay-baiting a preacher’s kid and taunting him for having black friends. Why the coyness? Was he out cruising, partying? Are his biological family homophobes?

I suspect the only reason we use headstones and monuments is to weigh down the dead, keep them safe and impotent in their graves, save the living from their fury. C’mon, MLK. Sound the trumpets. Roll that stone away.

We Americans aspire to govern the world, but can’t control the worst parts of ourselves. And the contests in which we can claim number one are embarrassing. Like our top ranking among developed nations when it comes to income inequality. Or the most likely to let superstition trump science. Because if there is God as described by the Creationists, and we were conveniently created in his image that very first week of the universe’s existence, then we can dominate the earth, and all its lands and creatures, including those second-rate countries like Iraq that should have pacified themselves by now. We can play god. Kill faggots and the sons of Cain. We can do what we like.

God knows accepting evolution throws our current world off kilter. You have to value patience, acknowledge that the arbitrary plays a role. We’re a part of the world. Not in control of it. What a relief. Let us decide as Americans to retreat to the second or third or fourth spot in the global order. Let the dead bury the dead. Embrace modesty and thoughtfulness. Let us call down another storm that will wash away the hubris and crap we’re saddled with. Let us begin anew.

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