By Gary Corseri
January 21, 2009
“No use beating a dead horse,” they say, and there’s probably no horse deader on the planet today than that strip of God-forsaken land called Gaza.
It appears that not only have Yahweh and Jesus Christ forsaken Gaza, but so have the U.N., the E.U., the US, the Arab League and every other institution and congregation of arrogant nation-states that have mis-managed our post Cold War era.
Israel tied up its slaughter in Gaza with a ribbon and handed it to Barack Obama just in time for his Inaugural warning to Muslims: Don’t shake your fists at us or we’ll defeat you! And our news-media Sanhedrin blessed the proceedings. Two days before the Inauguration, Bishop Lester Holt on NBC managed to anchor 30 minutes of drivel about the “historic event” of handing the “reigns of power” from one pitchman to another-and never mentioned once the fact that both Israel and Hamas had declared separate “truces” on that very day.
But, why should this surprise us? We are in a celebratory mood because a single half-Black-half-White man, with exceptional oratorical skills, and a fair dose of charisma, is re-writing our “history” and persuading the world by potent example that we are the can-do people in the can-do nation where anything is possible. We are good, and we are free! Probably when the German emperors took over the Roman empire, the circus-loving citizens also convinced themselves that increasing poverty at home and loss of respect and territory abroad were really proof that things were getting better. Plus ca change, and so forth!
I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way for the Gazans to have the American media take their dying and suffering seriously is for all the males to declare that they have suddenly become gay, and for all the females to declare themselves feminists. Obama’s Pastor Rick Warren would have to at least make some kind of public statement: Yes, Israel is exacting God’s punishment; or, hemming and hawing, maybe not. Representative Barney Frank might even offer a resolution in the House condemning the slaughter of so many defenseless homophiles.
As for the evisceration of so many Gazan feminists-Gloria Steinham might cart herself out of time immemorial and take a principled stand. We can even assume that Oprah will do a show on the subject. Perhaps she’ll invite Dr. Phil to reprise his “genuine, caring, witty doctor role.”
We Americans have always had trouble seeing the bigger picture. In the early days there was some justification: the land was so huge, and practically impenetrable. Torturously (and torturing the “savages” along the way), we pushed on. Still, who could comprehend it all? We bobbed along on currents of history like little dolls in a vast sea: behind us-600 years of the Holy Inquisition and a few hundred years of Luther’s Reformation; the barbarism of the Spanish Empire and the brutality of the British. British and French world wars that spanned continents–and somewhere a tiny outpost of colonials stands up and avers: We think we can exploit just as well as the King so why don’t you Redcoats get the hell out of here and let us maltreat our darkies just as we please? (Of course, we clean up the language for “history.”)
Just what is “history” anyway? During the recent commotion about the Inauguration, our news prelates prattled on breathlessly about “the historic occasion.” And every Roman-I mean, American-who could articulate the party line seemed to appear on TV solemnly declaring his/her intention to “be part of history,” or “witness history.” Curmudgeon, I recalled what I’d learned in elementary school: history is what has been recorded. It began about 5,000 years ago with Sumerian (ancient Iraqi) cuneiform writing and today we are pretty much glutted with this history stuff. On the day of the Inauguration, merely twelve miles from the center of it all, I decided to participate in “history” by not going, but dutifully recording. Thus, my morning: “Arose late; checked my e-mails and the alternative news sites; concluded the world was still bad and sad; shat, showered, didn’t shave, ran around the block without trying to think of ‘history.’ (I failed.)”
Our excuse for not seeing the bigger picture now has quite metamorphosed. It’s not that we can’t take in the breadth of it all-most of us have seen the planet from the moon, after all-a pretty blue mothball swinging in eternity. The problem now is that we’re just overwhelmed-information overload. It’s all at our fingertips-a library on our computers. But, where to begin?
Hence, in the nick of time, the cavalry (or is that Calvary) of news prelates arrive to tell us what is history and what is not; what counts and what’s crap; whose lives matter and whose lives are scrapmetal. (Or, as Barbara Bush might say, Why bother our beautiful minds about all this unbeautiful bull-dinky?)
We’re left with a boutique morality. We no longer need concern ourselves with the “savage” red man. No point crying over spilt milk-even when it looks like blood! Let us pick and choose carefully-as in a boutique-the parts of the narrative that reflect well on us. You see, we have just allowed one hybrid to join the party-so, we can’t be all bad. Now we can rise and affirm our faith in the System once again. We will repeat the myths again: everyone can grow up to be president; everyone is equal. We will not say that the Class War will continue under President Obama, that the hard-won advances of the black, white and brown laboring classes have been annulled. We must excise those unpleasant, complicating stories from the popular narrative. Lincoln-good. Hitler-bad. Repeat: Muslims-terrorists. Must kill. Must maim. War bad … but, war often necessary. Evil-doers. … Etc.
We no longer comprehend “history” except as it is a manufactured event. And, as we have lost “history,” we have lost: our ability to contextualize, to see the bigger picture, to understand that causing suffering and not alleviating suffering are the great tests of our moral system; and, to understand that we have failed.
Gary Corseri has posted/published his work at Dandelion Salad and hundreds of other venues. He has performed at the Carter Presidential Library, had dramas on PBS-Atlanta and elsewhere, and his books include the novel, Holy Grail, Holy Grail. He can be contacted at Gary_Corseri@comcast.net.