It’s times like these that I really question the value of the continuation of the human species.
I have just heard about the attacks on Paris. I was blissfully ignorant until half an hour ago, when I stepped away from my keyboard after hours of writing and revising to check out the news, my e-mail, social media, et cetera–and, of course, I didn’t get past the news. The human sickness rears its head, the most diseased organs of it blatantly showing in our open wounds. My mouth hung open in…what? Surprise? Disbelief? Despair? Anger? All of them. Nausea, above all else. The first wave of it hit halfway through the first article I read. My dinner, eaten in comfort in my writing nest, started to kick against the back of my throat.
It keeps happening. Again and again and again.
Or maybe just “still.”
Maybe this is the new normal.
Maybe, in one way or another, it always has been.
First, I want to…I don’t know what. Offer my prayers to the vast cosmos? Send my deepest condolences through Twitter? Cry into the drink I just poured myself to numb the raging things inside my body? Find every Parisian in the world and hold them, falling to our knees sobbing against each other’s shoulders? What, if anything, can I do? Donate my next pathetic royalty check to…where? Amnesty International? This is just too big for me. There’s no verb I have at my disposal that would seem strong enough. Our powerlessness in the face of this tragedy unites us. We cannot resurrect the dead. We cannot rewind time. We cannot go back and fix the errors of history. We can only mourn and cry and drink and wake up and try again, tomorrow.
Tomorrow, oh, shit, tomorrow…
I fear for tomorrow. I have visions already brewing in my head. Tomorrow.
I think of the mosque bombings after the Charlie Hedbo shooting. Makeshift bombs and grenades crashed through mosque windows, thrown by who-knows-who in an attempt to accomplish…something. But what? And why? Directionless anger? Lust for revenge? These things are inside of us, I know. They’re inside of me, too. But I’ve never thrown a bomb into someone else’s church service.
Tomorrow. Tomorrow may be a very bad time to be a Muslim. Has anyone even claimed responsibility for the attacks, yet? I don’t believe so. Do we even know the political or religious beliefs of the attackers? I haven’t heard. But what do you think the assumption will be? What do you think everyone is thinking, right now? When people start looking for someone to blame, where do you think the fingers will point?
So, Muslim brothers and sisters, stay inside tomorrow. Lock your doors and board up your windows. The huns are coming. Get ready for the talking heads across the so-called “civilized world” to start giving people permission to attack you. You know. You’ve seen it, before. Get ready to hear the question “does Islam promote violence?” for the millionth time this decade. Get ready to have the actions of under 1% of your total population make a political sideshow out of your day-to-day life. This is the new normal.
Tomorrow. Tomorrow, an unmanned drone will drop bombs on people eating lunch. It’s estimated that the bombs are far more likely to kill civilians than militant/terrorist threats. It’s estimated that as many as 90% of the casualties to date, of drone strikes, have been civilians. A woman sweeping the floor is dead seconds later. The floor is gone. Nothing is left. This is the new normal.
Tomorrow we will get the final death toll. It will be difficult to imagine and harder to stomach. You will look at the number of the dead and realize it’s larger than your entire social circle. You will stare at the number and realize that it’s you and everyone you love…your whole family and all of your friends. The funeral business is booming. So many graves. How do we always end up digging so many graves? This is the new normal.
And, in the end, what are we going to do?
Drop more bombs? Send in an army?
Who digs the grave for the woman in Afghanistan?
Who digs the graves for all the soldiers?
Still. Again. Still.
Where does it end? Drop the bombs, breed the terrorists. They don’t grow out of the cracked desert like weeds, you know. They crawl out of rubbled streets and poverty. They search for meaning in a world that refuses to give it to them. They build up resentment and anger and hatred, not unlike some of our homegrown “mentally ill” mass shooters, until something comes along they can hang onto. They put on the uniform. They join the club. Someone puts a gun in their hands and tells them they can change the world.
Picture, if you dare, a few thousand James Holmeses walking around, hoping to change the world.
Tomorrow looks pretty grim.
There’ll be more murder, I guarantee that. In Paris, in Afghanistan, in Colorado–there’ll be plenty more murder and it’ll keep on coming for a very long time. The death toll will shift and change and the headlines will look different depending on who dies and where, but don’t worry, the funeral business will keep booming. Bombs will drop. People will die. Young men with old Kalashnikovs will pour lead into crowds of people…and bombs will drop, again.
I’m sick to my stomach. Mankind is a wretched animal. We’re all just rabid pit dogs, gnashing our teeth, hungry to tear each other apart. Or, worse, we’re the victims, the losing dog, the one at the end of the fight with its jugular torn open. We’re just people struggling to live our lives, hoping that things will be better tomorrow and never knowing when a bomb will fall out of the sky or a man will open fire on a theatre or someone will throw a makeshift explosive through the window of our temple. We’re both. We’re the winning dog and the losing dog. Even our victories are defeats. Nobody proved that like Bush. “Mission Accomplished,“ yeah, right.
And here we are, again, digging graves. Again.
And now what?
There is no easy answer. There is no answer, at all, in my opinion. Sometimes force needs to be met with force. I believe, ladies and gentlemen, that we are at war–I may be a far-left liberal, but I’m not delusional–but what can come out of said war except for more war? How many people will we bury before it’s all over? How many civilian casualties will go uncounted in dusty countries?
How do you stop young men from killing people?
My drink is empty. The above question haunts my mind. Across the globe, from the littlest (and 294th) mass shooting in the United States to the largest terrorist attack in years, young men are killing people and we don’t know how to stop it. They act alone, as in Aurora, or in large tribes, as with ISIL. We can’t bomb them all. We certainly shouldn’t end up bombing over 700 civilians just to get 20 of them.
My heart is so ragged from thinking about the world. My heart is a broken flag hanging from an abandoned ship.
I think often of Heart of Darkness. A “novella” technically, but also fierce philosophical journalism. It’s an acute observation of our nature. Joseph Conrad might’ve written fiction, but every damned word was true.
I remember the scene on the river when all the ships starting firing cannonade into the treeline. “Shelling the bush,” I believe it was called. It was blind-firing, utter and rampant destruction wrought of paranoia and policy. The corresponding scene in Apocalypse Now, I think, was the carpet-bombing of the Vietnamese forest. The corresponding news article in Bush-era America was the “targeted” bombings in Iraq. And, now, the drones–90% of the dead are innocent, remember. 90%. We’re just shelling the goddamned bush.
And wasn’t Osama Bin Laden our own Kurtz? Worked for us for long enough until, one day, he didn’t, anymore. Until, one day, he became the teeth at our throat. And when we hunted him down, finally…what did we expect? A superhuman creature, demonic and virile, waiting to eat our soldiers? No. An old man, half-dead, with dry, cracked lips, on the run, locked away, barely able to rasp out his last words. “The horror” indeed.
And still, here we are.
We’ve been fighting this war since I was a child and we’ll still be fighting it when I’m dead. I know that much, now. I’ve come to terms with it. The new normal. “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow…”
I can write no more.
I have just watched updates on the Paris situation online and I can write no more. I can barely string two words together. The face of mankind is hideous to me, tonight. I want neither to serve it nor even to look upon it further.
Beautiful Paris, to gaze upon such ugliness…
I am sorry. I am so sorry. I hope there is a beautiful humankind waiting for you, tonight, a beautiful humankind riding along in ambulances and working double-shifts in hospitals and working the sirens on firetrucks. I hope there is a beautiful humankind there to hold you when the dust settles. I hope there is a beautiful humankind waiting to help you recover, tomorrow. I hope it lifts you up in its arms and lets you cry on its shoulder, that it listens to your stories, that it looks through old photographs of your loved ones and is there to cradle you through tears of mourning and remembrance.
I hope this, for you.
And tomorrow, I hope young men prove me wrong.
But I’m not sure they will. I don’t have the faith left in me, tonight, to be sure they will.Share This: