He grew irritated with their questioning.  They were members of the lamestream media, forever doubting the things he needed to do.

“It’s understandable that some people had to be arrested, but did they have to be shot?”

“They were troublemakers.  They were rioting.  Okay?  This is what happens.  Linda?”

“Do you have anything to say about the 30% unemployment rate?”

“That’s temporary.  That’s only temporary.  Sometimes there needs to be a little pain.  I’m about to bring amazing jobs to this country, believe me.  You have no idea.”

“But how will you do that, when…”

“Okay.  You’re done.  I already told you, honey.  Amazing jobs.  Hey Rick, how are you?”

“I’m doing very well, thank you.  Mr. President, you have increased domestic oil production…”

“We’re drilling everywhere.  Drilling everywhere.”

“…You’ve also removed excessive regulation, making it easier for our corporations to grow.  We’re getting richer by the day.  My question is, how much more glorious and powerful is America going to become in the near future?”

“You don’t even know, buddy.  So much glory.  So great.  Number one.  Number one.”

“Thank you for your inspiring answer.”

“No problem.  Let’s see…Dan?”

“Mr. President, you’ve shown that you are not afraid to punish our enemies, even if it means using nuclear weapons.  The American people are grateful for your help and protection…”

“You’re laying it on pretty thick, pal.”

“Hahahahaha….”

“But I do know that they’re grateful.  I know they are.”

“What do you tell the naysayers who say that you’ve made the world a more dangerous place?  That the civilian casualties in our strike on London were too high?”

“Those people were losers.  They had to be bombed.”

Another reporter chimed in.  “But those Americans who are protesting your policies…”

“They’re losers too.  That’s why I had to lock so many of em up.  Losers belong in jail.”

“Don’t you think that…”

“All right, I’m finished with this question.  We’re done.”

“Mr. President, please…”

“Hey Gary, will you remove this guy?  Will you take him outside?  Thank you.”

“What?  Hey, hold on!  You can’t do this!”

“Mr. President, you can’t just remove journalists because they ask you questions you don’t like.”

“You again, Linda?  I thought I told you before, sweet cheeks.  Security, take them both outside.  And make sure to help get them sobered up when they’re out there.  And don’t go easy on her–they wanna get equal treatment, right?”

Once the noise of the journalists getting dragged out of the room died down, the President nodded and lifted up his hand.

“Okay, we can keep going.  Kelsey?”

“You are obviously a man who cherishes and protects American women.  Where do you think that quality comes from?”

“That is a great question, Kelsey.  Believe me when I say that…”

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A few decades had gone by, and still the war went on.  Nobody in the country even remembered who Osama bin Laden had been, although some had a vague memory of a terrorist getting killed at a televised White House dinner.

And yet, every Friday afternoon the same thing continued in my hometown–the old hippies came out to protest.  The real 1960s hippies had died out by then, but these folks proudly carried on the tradition.  They slouched down Main Street with signs proclaiming hilarious things such as “Troops Out Of Iraq!” and “No Money For Israel!” and “Funding For Infrastructure!”  They circled the downtown blocks, screaming at a President who couldn’t hear them, and who wasn’t listening anyway.

I could hear them, though, every week when I left the office.  The company I worked for manufactured toy drones, and I was always worn out after a long day of customers with malfunctioning drones which crashed into trees or attacked their children.  Friday was when I would treat myself — fries and a beer at my favorite downtown pub.  Even as I chewed, the hippie chants echoed in my direction.  Rain or shine, they were there.  And she was there.

I did my best to keep my eyes on my plate and avoid eye contact as she went past the glass. But on that particular day, much to my dismay, she came in to talk to me.

“Hey, Mom.”  I managed to fake a weak smile.  “I’m very tired right now, so…”

“Can’t I even say hi to you anymore?”

“Not if it turns into another crazy rant…”

“It’s not crazy.  It’s not crazy to tell you that your job is bad for you.  You’re wasting your life. You hate those stupid toys…”

“Oh, sure.  And you’re not wasting your time doing this?”

“I’m doing it for my country!”

“Look, Mom.  Nobody cares.  Your country isn’t paying attention.  This is my one reward for my shitty week–could you please leave me alone?”

“Okay.  Have a good dinner.”  I felt her move away and walk out behind me, but didn’t look back.

But once I’d finished my beer, my anger faded away.  Alcohol made me sentimental.  So what if she wanted to walk around and yell with her anti-war sign, or tell me about all the conspiracy theories she’d read on the Internet?  She was retired, and retired people got to spend their time doing whatever silly stuff they felt like doing.  Hell, maybe I’d join her at the rally.  I wouldn’t hold any signs, of course–I didn’t want any embarrassing pictures of me online–but I could applaud the speeches and pretend to chant along a little.

I paid for my meal and went to the city square, where the marches ended every week in a sparse, hoarse-throated rally.  I must’ve taken too long, because the square was empty by the time I got there.  The cops were half-heartedly arresting one or two people.  The grey-bearded little man who liked to throw eggs at them was being led away.

No rally, no protest, no chance to chant.  No chance to make it up to Mom.  It was now drizzling miserably.

I heard indistinct shouting to my right.  It was the other protester who was there every week — the one with pictures of chopped up babies.

“You’ll burn in eternal Hell!”  he boomed at me through his bullhorn.

He eyed me with suspicion as I approached.  I handed him a twenty.  “For your church,” I said.  I didn’t tell him that I felt sad for him.

He glared at me, but he did pocket the twenty.  In return, he handed me one of his anti-abortion brochures.

As I walked away, he called after me:  “Remember, God doesn’t just want your money!  He wants your soul!”

I laughed.  How sweet of him to assume I had one.

Well, the winter season is here, and it feels like I’m snowed in at a horror movie ski cabin full of lunatics, idiots and psychopaths.  The door is blocked.  There is no way out.

Listen–it’s Trump’s Freedom Kids, singing their patriotic little hymn again.  Over here, USA!  Over there, USA!

Hillary is at the party too.  She is cackling at everyone’s jokes, wondering why nobody finds her likable.

Bernie and Trump are playing a game of I’ll do you one better.  “I’ll make America great again!”  “I’ll make America even better than America!  I’ll make it Sweden!”  “I’m gonna win!” Trump yells.  “I’m gonna win!” Bernie mumbles.

“Neither one of you is going to win!” I want to say, but there’s too much clatter just outside the living room door.  Out there, religious fanatics are beheading and shooting people, and blowing things up.  Great.  We’re going to have to bomb the kitchen and the pantry.

In the corner lurks the scariest person of them all, Ted Cruz.  “You know why all this is happening?  Because we’re weak,”  he whispers in that smooth telemarketer tone of voice.  “We need to become religious fanatics just like them, otherwise we’ll lose…”

I want to scream, I want to wake up from this nightmare, but I can’t, because this isn’t a dream.  I really am stuck, spinning around on a blue marble with these crazies, unable to get off.  When is the Mothership coming to pick me up?  When are the snows going to melt?  Please, let me out of here, preferably before my head explodes.

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.

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….

These days, the United States is frequently compared to the Roman empire. Usually the comparison is made by those warning about our demise, either because we’re militarily overstretched or too accepting of homosexuality as a part of our culture.

But as tempting as it is to imagine myself reclining on a luxurious feast couch and eating grapes–the truth is, we kind of suck at being an empire.

Take Iraq. It’s pretty obvious that it’s become a colony of ours. We can make noises about leaving, but let’s face it, we’re over there to stay. Well, the Romans were at least smart enough to claim taxes from the nations they conquered. We seem to be doing the opposite–I’ve been paying from my hard-earned money to build stuff in Iraq. Why? Our own infrastructure could certainly use the help.

What I’m saying is, let’s be honest about what we’re doing. Enough with the bullcrap about being a democratic society trying to bring our democratic ideas to Iraq. Does anybody really believe that Americans believe in that cause? So if I’m forced to be the evil invader, I should be accepting some kind of tribute right now from those we’ve conquered. I should be getting loot and booty from the place we’ve taken over. That’s how this sort of thing works. And if that’s not happening, then what the hell are we doing?

Ah, but of course, there are select people in my country who did, in fact, get to loot Iraq’s resources. The companies who walked away with huge profits from our overseas adventure. So perhaps, we are more talented at being an empire than I thought, and perhaps, I’m getting a painful lesson in what it’s like to be one of the little people in an empire–one of the little people who helps fund our military exploits, but doesn’t get to share in any of the spoils. Not even through lower gas prices. Okay, I get it.

So then, could we at least throw some good decadent parties?

Time to gather around for storytime, children….

Next week, the Secretary of State of our country is going to be at a Gaza reconstruction conference in Cairo, at which wealthy nations are going to give money to rebuild homes and businesses in Gaza which were destroyed during their war with Israel. We don’t know yet how much America will donate, but Washington is expected to promise a “meaningful and appropriate” amount.

But wait…the American government also gives lots of money in military aid to Israel…hundreds of millions of dollars.

So, yes. Like in some twisted fairy tale–we are paying for Israeli missiles–which they are going to use to bomb the Gaza strip–which we are then going to pay to help rebuild–so that it can be bombed again.

And this, American boys and girls, is why we can’t have nice things.