Somewhere in America, a young man sits at the breakfast table, eating his cereal.  He’s getting ready to go.  His backpack and coat are in the chair next to him.

His parents are nervous and excited for him.  He’s told them that he’s going to the city for a job interview.

Before he leaves, he gives his sister a hug.  She tells him to be careful.  The big city is not a safe place.  He gets into his truck and takes off.

He sits in horrible traffic for hours.  Slowly, he crawls his way downtown.  He looks out his window at the dirty streets and the crowds.

He finally finds a parking spot, and then he walks, in the noise and the shadow of the towering skyscrapers.  He hates it here, but he’s willing to do this.  He’s here to save his country.

For a while, he hangs out in front of a store window, staring at a display of the latest phones.  Across the street, a slim figure strides down the sidewalk.  It’s easy to recognize her.  She’s a female journalist, and he has read online that she walks to work every day.  He agrees with his President–she’s one of the enemies of the people.

Pulling out his gun, taking the shot–it all happens in a flash, and she crumples to the ground.

The next bullet is for him.  He doesn’t mind dying.  He has fulfilled his mission, done what he believes his role models and leaders wanted him to do.

Maybe–he thinks in his last moments–maybe, thanks to his sacrifice, America will continue to be free.

 

October, October, October!  This Year Only!  All Month Long!  Don’t miss our blowout sale of Ideas You Should Buy!  Buy These Ideas Now!

Our selection is crazy!  And by crazy, we mean…there are only two choices.  Two choices nobody likes.  But hey, it wouldn’t be a low low prices blowout sale if we actually had something attractive to sell…heh heh heh.

Which flavor of Patriotism do you prefer?  Is it the classic taste of Standing Up For The Little Guy?  It’s mostly whipped cream and air with no nutritional content, but it sure looks pretty.  Or would you like to try the brand new America For Americans Only flavor?  Well…it’s not really new.  We bring it back every few decades or so.  It always causes food poisoning and pain, but humans just can’t stay away from it.

Speaking of things that never go away, follow me to our fashion section.  Did you know that bigotry is back in style this year?  Fine, fine…it never went out of style, but it’s the definite It thing for this fall!  You look upset.  Are those racist pants too, shall we say, risque for you?  Do they not fit very well?  No worries!  Take a few of our Color-Blind Brotherly Love pills.  They will make you feel as if such a thing actually exists!

What are you looking at over there?  Well, yes, we do have some alternative products available.  We’ve got the Libertarian, the Green…  But keep in mind that these are not the standard American models.  It’s very difficult to get replacement parts for them.  And let me remind you that all our election year purchases are nonrefundable.  If it breaks, you can’t bring it back!

So don’t delay!  After Nov 8th, it will be too late!  We have lots of shiny Ideas on our shelves.  Would you like Better Wages?  Reproductive Rights?  Religious Freedom?  Intimidating Foreign Policy?  Building The Wall?  Get them no….oh.

I see.  You’ve been watching the news a lot lately.  So, now you’ve got a bad case of fear, am I right?  The only thing you’re interested in is that giant bag of Law And Order?  Great choice!  Will it work?  Will it make you safe?  Of course it will!

Thank you for shopping with us, and have a wonderful four years!

Fading in and out, I wait for the bird of sleep to come and take me away with it.  I twist my head on the pillow and turn the radio up slightly, a murmur in the dark.

 

Finally, the bird swoops in and I glide away on its back.  Into the fog at first, then we circle over a lush green valley.  It’s beautiful.  In this valley, the woman found her husband and baby, their bellies carved open.  I look around, is that why this place is so empty?  Yes, the kidnapped girls were never found…there’s not a trace of them….

 

Oh, no!  I say.  What can we do about this?  The bird’s eyes are big and sad.  We have to understand, it says, that we cannot bomb our way out of this situation.  So in that case…?  The bird bows its head and weeps as it says, perhaps, economic sanctions….

 

The clouds are purple and red underneath us.  Once again, we swoop in for a landing, this time on a gleaming beach.  I find a giant shell and kneel down next to it in the sand.  The sapphire waves roll in.  What a perfect day!  There’s a history of discrimination here, whispers a voice inside the shell.  What’s that?  I want to look for treasure!  Years of oppression cannot be reversed in five minutes, you know.  Whoever’s living inside that shell is ruining my dream.

 

Take me somewhere else, bird of dreams.  But it’s too late.  The bird’s wings are drooping.  It’s tired.  I tried to pull my family out of the rubble, but I wasn’t able to.  Everything was on fire their bodies were bloodied charred my eyes fly open.

 

And that is why I stopped listening to the BBC World Service at night.

Living on an alien planet can be difficult sometimes. It requires work and effort. Every afternoon, I turn on the news and try to figure out what is going on around here.

The news anchor swivels his eyestalks as he lectures his audience. “On our planet, we believe in having as much freedom as possible,” he explains. “That’s why the clerk in Kentucky is keeping same sex couples from getting married…she’s doing it in the name of freedom.”

Okay, so that makes no sense. But hey, different lifeforms and all that, right? And what kind of strange name is Kentucky, anyway?

I keep watching, but it doesn’t get any better. An interviewer shifts herself and her low-cut dress towards the camera, so that we can more clearly see the cleavage of her five breasts. “Ooooh, is that really your answer?” she chirps. “You wouldn’t terminate your female partner’s pregnancy even if it meant ending her life? You would watch her die?”

“Oh, certainly! I will always stand in defense of life.”

“Well, blirpity blorpity, Senator!” she giggles.

This is becoming hopeless. Now, snippets from a press conference. A truly strange creature with a bizarre growth on its head leans into the microphones.

“The Latinos love me!” it yells. “The Mexicans, they love me! Just last week, I gave one of them a $10 tip, and he said to me…”

Is there no intelligence to be found out here?

It’s almost a relief to see the televangelist lifeform flail its tentacles up to the sky. “He’s coming back!” it screeches. “He’s coming back and when He does, everyone who didn’t listen to my warning will get TOSSED into the lake of fire!”

The lake of fire sounds preferable to this insanity…I hope I get tossed in there soon. To borrow a phrase from this crazy tribe, amen.

After a long, exhausting day, I curl up in my bed and turn on the large screen sitting on my bedroom cabinet. And when I’ve stared into it for a while…suddenly…it’s all okay.

It’s okay that my spend my days at my overwhelming, soul-draining job because, hey, there’s always a chance that I might get on a reality show someday and win a million bucks. Maybe I’ll be the one who isn’t voted off the island. On Survivor, the Blue Collar team can beat the White Collar team, even though in real life they wouldn’t have a melting snowball’s chance of it.

It’s okay that a soldier gets his limbs blown off in one of our pointless wars, because he can still go on Dancing with the Stars.

It’s okay that there are parents out there who can’t afford medical care for their child, because the local news will tell me a heartwarming story about how their neighbors held a bake sale to try to raise the money.

It’s okay that Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush are both part of the same oligarchy running the nation, because the debate between those two is going to be so exciting!

It’s okay if I make less than a man, because Beyonce will sing me a song about how girls run the world.

It’s okay if tigers go extinct, as long as we have enough dogs left to do stupid pet tricks.

Bright colors flash into my eyes and happy tunes jingle into my brain, until I finally pass out, the tension leaving my shoulders and back, the white noise of our entertainment culture droning on…It’s gonna be okay…It’s gonna be okay….

The radio is already playing Christmas carols, and Ferguson is still smoldering. And the head shaking about what happened in Ferguson is continuing. It’s sad to watch businesses that have been part of a neighborhood for years be destroyed. And I won’t lie–I’ve become an old, comfortable suburbanite, so the thought of civil unrest of any kind mainly makes me nervous. Yet even inside my middle-class bubble of safety, a question lingers…

If the protests had been completely peaceful, would anyone have cared? If not a single fire had been set, would anyone have noticed?

The news media pretty much gives us the answer. The peaceful protesters in Ferguson–and there was a large group of them–were mostly ignored by the cameras. The rioters and looters got all the attention. And the TV channels were waiting with their tongues out, panting for something “bad” to happen. That’s why it’s so galling now to see the CNN experts taking on a “tsk tsk tsk” finger wagging role. This is exactly what they wanted! Peaceful protest doesn’t make for very entertaining television.

We did have some protesters here in town who got media coverage, but only because they blocked the roads, resulting in furious rush hour drivers. And what if they had stayed out of the traffic? We have the answer to that question too. The night of the grand jury announcement itself, a group of activists gathered in front of the Justice Center downtown, chanting and singing songs. The local news anchor gave them about ten seconds of his attention before moving on to Timmy the tap dancing cat or whatever other human interest story he had lined up.

We like to tout the philosophy of non-violence, the example of leaders like Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr–who’s being quoted a lot these days–but how much respect do those who follow the non-violent way actually get? And does peaceful protest even work? I’ve been involved in a couple protest marches myself (I think you’re required to do that before you can get official Portland resident status). I was at one of the Bring Back Our Girls rallies, and couldn’t help thinking that being there was, more than anything, about making ourselves feel better. If the Boko Haram kidnappers could have seen us reading our poems about justice and sending our positive vibes out into the universe, they probably would have laughed their asses off. And, judging from at least one Youtube video, they did.

And this plays out on an even grander global scale. Vladimir Putin has been spending his free time making threatening military gestures. President Obama tried–at least at first–to establish a foreign policy of diplomacy and negotiation rather than war. Obama was dismissed as weak, whereas Putin was praised for being a super macho male, and the conservatives of the world are all but doodling little hearts on the snapshots of his bare-chested horse rides.

So is peace the way of the losers? This is an appropriate issue for me to ponder, especially as I get closer to celebrating the symbolic birth of my symbolic spiritual teacher, who preached about turning the other cheek and then got killed off by the powers that be. As a child of hippies, I would like to continue to believe in non-violence. But it’s very obvious to me which path the world I live in values more.

There must have been some mighty long faces in the CNN newsroom when the missing Malaysian airplane story petered out. Now what were they going to obsess about 24/7? Maybe…serious news? Like the midterm elections? Ha! Who are we kidding?

Well, praise the good Lord for creating the little wiggly bugs and the germs, because now CNN has ebola. Is ebola a serious topic? Yes, but not when CNN is covering it. First, there was the endless dissection of what the nurses at Texas Presbyterian Hospital might or might not have been wearing when they treated Thomas Eric Duncan. It’s one thing to report that there were significant lapses in hospital protocol. It’s another to spend many hours speculating about what these lapses might have been because you’re trying to kill time before the next CDC conference. Then, when the nurses were being moved to other hospitals, CNN treated us to live coverage of the vehicles transporting the nurses, including ominous shots of the airplanes which were going to fly them to their destinations. Why did we need to see that? Were there infectious bodily fluids condensing on the wings? This provides more evidence for my personal theory that CNN + airplanes = pure ridiculousness.

So thank you, CNN, for showing us yet again that you are capable of taking any news story and riding it straight into carnival barker territory.

Ah, but there was also something missing for me in the coverage…some elusive element…I mean, besides substance. I wasn’t sure what it was, but then I remembered Don Lemon playing with his toy plane, and it all came back to me. The news anchors need a prop! And I know just the thing–the plushie version of the ebola germ, brought to us by Giant Microbes. You can take your plague reporting to a whole new level of dramatic when you’re waving an actual germ around in the studio. Hope you listen to my advice, CNN! You can’t make things much sillier than you already have, you know.