Incompetence Day

The whole world’s sick and vile tonight and I’m sitting on a broken plastic deck chair, pressure-molded hunter green, watching sparse traffic pass by my home. Today is the morning of July 4th, 2005. It’s Independence Day, the 229th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence being signed. And on this morning, under this starless sky, watching the pale orange light of the street lights across the street drift down through the humidity, I’m serious wondering where it all went wrong.

The code is journalism, it’s truth, it’s observation and voyeurism of the highest order. Tell the tales of mankind, of humanity in the ebb and flow of their daily lives. But it’s more than that. Two-hundred and twenty-nine years ago, Jefferson handed in his final draft. It was signed by all present and the nation drew a line in the sand.

England is our ally now, one of our few true allies in the world. The others, Japan, Israel, and South Korea, are indicative of American principles, those being do what we say or we’ll bomb you. We bombed Japan. We broke away from England. The Jews were received worse than the blacks when they came to the United States. These are our allies. Their reasons, if they truly have them, are clearly not based in morality.

In about ten hours, the people of the United States will celebrate their independence day, their day of celebration for drawing that line in the sand. But have we become a free nation? No, we haven’t. We’ve become a spoiled nation, a proud and selfish nation too self-important to look at itself without a gilded eye. It has become our downfall. Pageantry reigns in America, especially today.

There will be speeches, by the president, by the mayors, by even the average Joe who’s for five minute holding the floor at the We-Fear-Women lodge in Who-Knows-Where, Connecticut. All of them will pay lip service to freedom, to democracy. But then they’ll go home, turn on the television, and shut off their minds. Yes, they’ll say, nodding their heads, this is America. The president is a good man. And Congress, we put them in office, right? They have to have our best interests at heart.

If these words sound hollow to you, congratulations. You’re halfway there. Just don’t be foolish and convince yourself that I’m making this up. That is how the body politic thinks. Be glad that you’re free, but don’t actually try to be free. Don’t try to make up your own mind, it’s already been made up for you. Watch television and learn what to say, what to think, what to do. And if you’re too tired, you can always do nothing.

In my lifetime I’ve seen more men acquitted for murder than I’ve seen presidents charged with it. I’ve seen two men of the same sub-human Republican cadre sack and burn our economy with the public’s blessing. Both were praised all the way, for they burned only those the American people considered too far away, too insignificant to care about.

Americans are opportunists, lazy opportunists. If it’s dumped on our front doorstep, we’ll take it. If it requires a bit of work, it’s too much trouble and we either forget about it or piss and moan until it’s brought to our doorstep. We never go the extra mile, make the hard decisions. Here’s a hard decision to make for the new free year: rebel. You are not free. You are a slave. You survive only because you are not important enough for those with power to care about. Make yourself powerful. Stand with your fellow citizens and demand that the paper ballots be reinstated to preserve the electoral process. It’s a start, but we have to start somewhere.

While your at it, don’t ignore the well-researched and journalistic horror stories you hear about the past elections. Remember who’s responsible. Demand names. And when they won’t give them to you alone, come in force. Make some noise. Disrupt what has become too complacent. Remind these fucking people that you exist, for whether you want to admit it or not, they don’t know and they certainly don’t care.

And then there’s the final course, the big course: the media. Regardless of what jaded, embittered and frustrated opinion you have of the media, its slant, its focus, it serves a vital role. It’s not doing it, however. The mainstream media lies in the newspaper, firstly. Never will it be in magazines. It’s a faster, cheaper version of the same, but you get what you pay for. Demand from the news that you actually get the news. Tell them you WANT to know what the companies in America are putting in your water, what international laws the government is breaking this week, and while they’re at it, why are we worried more about unborn children than the health and education of those that are already old enough to walk upright?

Make some noise. This is supposed to be your Independence Day. Raise hell for democracy. It worked the last time, but only because reasonable, well-meaning and committed men thought that death was better than a life lived under tyranny.

And one last thing: I don’t care if you believe in a god or not. I don’t. “One nation under God” is a figure of speech. This is reality. There’s no invisible man. You can believe whatever you want, but this government is based off of logic, not religion. And if you believe otherwise, you are a traitor to democracy because it’s “rule by majority” not by divine writ. Remember that.

*

Woke up today bleary-eyed and unhappy with the world. A brief rest didn’t make the day any less of what it is, a lie.

Right now, the president is probably giving a speech. No, it’s only quarter to 1. He’s not giving speeches yet. People aren’t drunk enough. They’re not gorged enough on their own vanity, their own frivolous abandon. When they are, he’ll speak. He’ll pay lip service, along with Congress, to ideals that he doesn’t believe in or doesn’t understand. Then he’ll go home to his government mansion and plot the further destruction of our civil liberties.

Think I’m paranoid? Eminent Domain can be declared for private interests now, paving the way for anybody with enough money to buy any part of a city, regardless of the ownership of the less-affluent man. Remember that term: “affluent”. It means influential. It also means rich. This is not an accident.

I spent the first three hours of the American Independence Day in a bar. It seemed appropriate. We broke with the norm and talked about politics (between conversations about the state of music and the new Batman movie, of course). But none of it really meant anything. We all know what’s gone down, but none of us did anything about it then, and we won’t do anything now. Having a barbecue and lighting some fireworks is so much more fun.

Celebrating independence is so much easier than maintaining it.

I write this in a world that is not free, where ideas are not the great currency of our government, where humanity and understanding and fairness are not the pivotal ideals.

I write from the world where a doe-eyed brunette in a pizza parlor sat riveted, watching the annual hot dog eating contest on ESPN.

It’s difficult to stay angry for long. It’s exhausting to know that the real world is this bad. There is a part within me, within all of us really, that drags us back into the routine, into the world that we think is real. But it’s the enemy, that instinct. It’s a lie to believe that we can do that. It’s in fact the very instinct that got us here in the first place.

I will remain angry. I will not forget. I recommend that you do not either. If you can say the words “Independence Day” today with even a shred of respect for what the words mean, you need professional help. And you’ll get the professional help, too. Only he’ll be a cop, a guardsman, or another politely-renamed storm trooper.

The answer to our prayers is, I am told, education. Well, it’s up to you to be educated. And not just out of books. Books are good, but it’s how you really USE the knowledge you obtain that defines your intellect, and thus your place in the American dialogue. If you believe truly that you live in a free and democratic country, you have not seen how the use of electronic voting machines built by the neo-conservative operated company Diebold Security has undermined the sanctity of our voting process. You have not seen how Congress and the American people were conned, lied to, and ultimately manipulated into approving a war in which thousands have died.

That makes us mass murderers, by the way; all of us.

There is a man on Hamilton Street, New Brunswick, New Jersey, who fills his frontage with the most beautiful array of flowers. In the United States, a lot of people garden. But in the suburbs, mainly in the back yard, who sees it? What does it really add to the neighborhood? We worship our lawns, or window boxes, and all it amounts to is vanity. I stopped to complement the man’s beds. He was pleased. That’s the power of a city, even a crime-infested, corrupt one. You meet people, you see his flowers, you see what he’s done to beautify the edges of a city street.

But in the end, there’s the happy barbecue, the happy family, and the delusions of a free country. It’s a happy little world they’re celebrating this Independence Day. It’s shame that it’s not actually the real one.

1:00 p.m.

*

Not long after. I’m thinking a lot. But isn’t that what this day’s all about, reflection? It’s supposed to be. It’s a holiday after all, a holy day in the religion of America.

There’s a little boy running around the fountain, playing in the water. His family, especially his brother, tells him ont to. His brother’s about ten and wears a black shirt that says “Policia”. I remember having a D.A.R.E. shirt when I was a kid. My how they slip in the anthems and the uniforms so subtly. Believe this. Look at this little boy held at bay by his mother. Her other sons are so well-behaved and responsible. The “Policia” boy takes care of his little brother, while the oldest sits nearby playing a game boy.

I think these three boys and me are America. One isn’t paying attention, one is wrangling, and the wrangled, the free spirit, totters around, scorned for his curiosity. And then there’s me, watching the whole thing go down.

The wind is changing now and the fountain water is blowing my way ever-so-slightly.

Not fifteen minutes ago I crossed the street and was asked for money. There was a man with a story to tell, about a flat tire and the threat of being towed. He needed money, money that I couldn’t give. I know he was lying. I know, not by his appearance, but simply because I’ve been asked by him before.

It was the same story, three years ago.

That’s the way it works, though. You don’t stop using an old con. It still works. Maybe not on everyone, but on just enough people for it to get you what you need. The con artist never remembers the victim and the victim rarely remembers the con artist, not well at least. And so it happens again and again. And even if they remember his face, all he does is find another mark. We’ve had the same con pulled on us as Americans so many times that we’ve had to jettison our own memories to accept what we’re hearing as truth. How pathetic is that?

I don’t blame the man with the story. He’s most likely homeless, quite possibly hungry, and maybe even starving. And even in he’s a junkie, I still don’t care. His pride is lost by his begging if it’s drugs. It’s his to lose. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt because that is all I can afford him. But the rich who steal from us, who keep us vulnerable because the vulnerable are easier marks…they get no sympathy.

Tax burden is stifling this company’s growth, they say. This is from a person who probably makes more than twenty of his employees will that year. I’m looking for a river. Could you please cry me one?

So many experiences in a single city, in a single day. Nothing’s really different about today, not really. Even if we still lived in a democratic country, a country controlled by an informed electorate and their chosen officials, it still would just be a day. People get off from work and they do what they do: the lazy lounge, the curious inquire, the violent fight, and the beggar begs. And for that matter, and here I’ll take my obligatory bow, the writer writes.

His brother is dragging him into a Dunkin’ Donuts now, the little boy, kicking and screaming. He’ll be dragged away again some day for his curiosity, for his will.

The puller’s shirt will say “Police” then, too.

*

It’s late in the afternoon and I’m sitting on the porch again, waiting for seven o’ clock to roll around, not for any other reason than it’s the next one coming up.

Like some people, I have a tendency to blame certain bits of technology for our current ills as a society. Television is probably the most obvious, nee infamous target of opportunity. But really, it’s just the people.

Across the street from my house, my neighbors are having live music. It’s probably the most distinct thing I’ve seen done this holiday. Mind you, it’s about as related to the holiday as we are to the howler monkey, but it still pops up rarer than the fireworks displays.

And there, just as I type it, someone sets off a bottle rocket. It’s 7:03 by my clock, which in July still constitutes broad daylight. These are not the citizens of New Brunswick. They are the lodgers. The citizens were all out on Handy Street, doing their deal, living their lives, reveling in the greatest holiday that America has to offer: a Monday off of work. The lodgers are the ones that think holiday: beer + barbeue = fun.

If this is our idea of celebrating liberty, no wonder we no longer have it.

I’m staring at a couple across the street. The guy has tattoos and glasses. The woman reminds me of a TA I had in college. Five years from now, if they’re still together, they’ll probably have kids. Five years after that, I’ll have another person telling me that Bush was a great leader and those were the greatest time of their lives.

Please be sickened by this, I beg of you.

They’re coming in droves now. It looks like quite a party. Every face the same, hipster trash lost in the nowhere that is modern American culture. I look at them and hate, because I see uniforms of the nonconformist. I see boys that should be grown men. I see people coasting by on indifference, preoccupation and self-centered stereotypical hedonism.

I see my fellow Americans, and I see yet another reason why this holiday is a lie.

*

I’m going to end this essay here. Maybe I’ll find more to write about, but if you can’t figure out what I’m saying after 2,600 then you weren’t reading. In summary: This isn’t a holiday because we aren’t democratic anymore. You can’t have a democratic holiday without a country where democracy flourishes. See the neo-cons removed from office, the paper ballot reinstated, and the press resolve to be more thorough and less partisan in its reporting, and then maybe we’ll have something to celebrate about.

And if you don’t want to, then I cordially invite you to go fuck yourself and die, because better you do it to yourself than do it to everybody else.

Good night.

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