Barbecuing Iraqis on the 4th of July By Gary Corseri

By Gary Corseri
Featured Writer
Dandelion Salad
July 1, 2009

Thoughts of a Summer Solstice:  What Are We Now?

Those who study signs and omens may find the conjunction of Father’s Day and the summer solstice on the very same day—a mere 13 days before the onanistic, self-congratulatory celebrations of the birth of our lost Republic, with its concomitant nod to the “wisdom” of the “Founding Fathers”—a matter for concern, or whimsy … or fantastic speculation and extrapolation.  The rest of us will mutter “mere coincidence,” rush to the malls to remember dear old dad, fire up the grills, and wonder perhaps if time is shrinking?

After all, wasn’t it just a few days ago, on “Memorial Day,” that we unfurled the flags, honoring the Empire’s liveried fallen?  That was for a war that started 95 years ago and seems never to have ended—since the “enemy” is still at the gates and threatening anew our long lost Republic.

Haven’t we merely been fox-trotting in place after the last solstice’s showing of “It’s A Wonderful Life,” retaining heat for the next time we plunge into the river to save an angel–or Zuzu’s petals unfold in our pockets?  As the crookster said in “Dirty Harry”: I’se gots to know: Just when did life become so ritualized, so formulaic, such a corporate-media and corporate-government controlled shazaam?  Just when did culture lose its sap and vim and capacity to surprise, nourish and enlighten?  Particularize certain days, designate some for celebration or mourning, some for remembrance—of parents, sweethearts, children, et. al.—and succeed in zapping wonder from the numerous, amorphous, undesignated days—days reduced to plodding through the morass of details, interruptions, interventions that constitutes our daily “life” together in the electronic matrix.

In passing, some fun facts about the solstice: 1. Re our pagan ancestors—and, yes, we all had pagan ancestors (even those later chosen by “G_d”!)—our original “fathers” and mothers of the tribes called the Midsummer moon the “Honey Moon,” named for the mead made from fermented honey—a central part of the summer solsticial wedding ceremonies (droit de seigneur came later—a salacious wink to feudalism’s/capitalism’s, all-embracing, gilded, purple power).  2. Those jovial pagans celebrated Midsummer with bonfires: couples would leap through the flames, believing their crops would grow as high as their leaps.  3.  Midsummer was thought to be a time of magic: crypts opened, evil spirits spun webs around the innocent; garlands of herbs and flowers were thought to thwart the worst of them.  And Love could make fools of all—then, as now.

And here are some un-fun facts (courtesy of Jason Ditz) about this solstice in 2009: 1.  At least 70 Iraqis were killed in a truck bombing in Kirkuk—and more than 200 wounded in a blast against a Shi’ite Mosque.  2.  The attack appears to have been the deadliest in nearly two months.  3.  “Violence in Iraq had been escalating in March and April, but US forces appeared to feel vindicated that this was an aberration when May’s death toll was somewhat lower.”  The bombing in Kirkuk suggests “the trend of rising sectarian violence is far from over.”

Our present disjunctive world system could be compared to the “bizarro world,” of the classic Superman comics where good is bad, up is down—the world is a cube and all is backwards.  But that, at least, would imply some kind of order.  Maybe so. … The Chaos Theorists tell us that even chaos in extremis has a feedback loop of information and order is reasserting itself.  Yin and yang, Shiva and Vishnu bound together like two suns exchanging star stuff.  All well and good for the metaphysicians among us.  For the rest: “Man that is born or woman is of few days, and full of trouble.”

Joe Bageant writes about our “holographic” reality in which we lose ourselves, lose our core identities and empathic humanity in the projections of sounds and images that envelop us—and, indeed, flow through us, absorbing us and projecting our “selves” back to us.  And so the solstice comes and goes without a nod to its “magic”—white or black–and the herb that might protect us from the evil spirits unleashed at this time is a contraband “weed” draining in the dreamscape rubbish heap of a countercultural movement that spawned the last great effervescence of the arts and social consciousness—and, not incidentally, the last great peace movement–in our moribund Republic.

But … we still have our bonfires (of the vanities)!  Or, at least, barbecues. …


Two days later and the news is all about Iran.  Macho Republican leaders like Senator Lindsey Graham-cracker have been calling Obama weak.  In the background, Dick Cheney and Henry Kissinger—Dr. Strangelove is still very much alive, it seems, and still carrying water for the Rothschilds-Rockefellers banking interests—both of them wonder in basso profundo if this isn’t the best time to send predator drones up the mullahs mulish asses?  Mr. Obama takes a defiant—though certainly not a Larry-Craig-“wide”–stance and assures the hand-picked press and the TV audience around the world that he isn’t weak—and that he really is trying to kick his smoking habit.  Meantime, kinky Kim Jong Il has been threatening to blow up Waikiki Beach, but we do want freedom-loving people all over the world—with the exceptions of Gaza, Cuba, Venezuela and a few score other places—to know that we are closely monitoring the situation, our C.I.A. is definitely not even a teensy-weensy bit involved, and we are without a doubt the greatest nation that will ever exist in the whole wide world—if not the ever-expanding Universe!  Further, we really want all those in Bigscreenland to know that the Iranians can’t wait to enjoy the blessings of our unstolen elections—remember President Gore?—not to mention our level of health care and our overflowing prisons where we stuff our malcontents, losers, homeless and foreclosed upon, and other assorted sub-human detritus.  What is wrong with these pix?

For one thing: there is nary a mention of the fact that 40 more Iraqis have been blown up—this time in Baghdad.  I watch Brian Williams and this new guy with the goatee talk for ten minutes about how the people in Iran really, really, really want democracy.  A young woman has been killed in the street and they show the awful picture of her bleeding there, her eyes wide with wonder as her life ebbs away.  I grieve for her.  She was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  I grieve for the Iraqis blown up today and blown up 2 days ago.  One could also say: wrong place, wrong time.  But that would be a dismissal.  There is no dismissal here.  Brian and Chris Goatee don’t even mention Ali Baba and the 40 thieves, who no doubt left their bloody sandals behind.  It’s like they never were.  It’s, like, existential, man!  Background muzak (to be sung to the strains of “Who’s Sorry Now?”, circa early ‘60’s, Connie Francis much preferred: “We’re leaving now; it’s their heartache now. …”)


I wanted to talk about barbecues as we scrape the corroding grills for the approaching celebrations.  A few facts culled from the Financial Times (so you know they must be right because, let’s face it, their bloody, elitist, aristocratic, royalist, you-can-kiss-my-arse system, actually educates its unwashed “yearning to breathe free” masses better than ours—and they get decent healthcare thrown in to boot—as I learned to my chagrin in the early 80’s, laid up for 12 days with a rather embarrassing ailment related to salmonella or amoebic dysentery—possibly both—and definitively traced to bad chicken eaten on an American airliner on the way over.  I was quarantined, had a private room.  Didn’t cost me a half penny, and the nurses were pretty … but that’s a different story.)

So, here goes, ye exultant patriots: The US Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association estimates that about 50 percent of all American households will light barbecues on the Fourth of July.  Most of these households will use charcoal rather than wood.  Charcoal is easier to handle—who chops their own wood anymore?—and it burns at a higher temperature.  On the glorious Fourth, 2300 acres of forest will go up in smoke in little backyard grills, emitting some 225,000 tons of carbon dioxide.

Breathing easier?  In the mood for firecrackers and hot dogs?  Let’s consider the lowly, symmetrical briquettes: they’re bound with borax, have had nitrite added to make them ignite easily—after we soak them with lighter fluid!—and they’ve been mixed with lime to whiten the ash for a nice aesthetic affect.  The concentration of dioxins in the vicinity of an “average” barbecue is “equivalent to 220,000 burning cigarettes.“

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, “When fat from meat, poultry or fish drips on to hot coals or stones [carcinogenic] polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are deposited back on to food through smoke and flare-ups.”

Mah fellah Americans … Bon apetit!


What a fine solstice we’ve been having!  Latest AP news as of 6/24/09: “An airstrike believed to have been carried out by a U.S. drone killed at least 60 people at a funeral in South Waziristan, Pakistan, according to residents of the area and local news reports.”  Of course, it’s only “according to” them.  Brian and Chris and Katie, Rush and Bill and Sean and even the lib blowhards like Olbermann, Shultz and Maddow are bound to ignore it.  As George the Wimp Bush used to say: “Wouldn’t be prudent.”

Also today, the death toll in the bombing in Baghdad of two days ago has now been raised to 52.  Still no pictues.  Obama has not called a press conference to aver that Iraqis are striving for freedom and the whole world is watching.  Apparently, no one has yet found any weapons of mass destruction and the yellow cake uranium was … just yellow cake!  Saddam Hussein is still dead, along with a million other Iraqis who were in the wrong place at the wrong time when our long-time lost Republic decided it needed to build the largest Embassy-cum-Fortress-cum-Listening Post—cum Military Forward Thrust Encampment smack-dab in the cunny of Baghdad.

So I guess my question is, Just what the hell are we supposed to be commemorating and celebrating on the 4th of July?  That strange concoction of revolutionaries—democrats and slave-holders, visionaries and anti-tax men, criminals, freemasons, adventurers, horse-thieves, horse-traders, farmers, “winter soldiers and sunshine patriots”—had more in common in terms of their perception of time, their mores, the general conditions of their lives—more in common with the Gracchus brothers of ancient Rome than with anything going down in the multiplex Empire today.  So, other than distraction, hocus-pocus and mesmerism—what’s the point?

Which, of course, answers my own question.  Hot dog and hamburger buns and circuses of “bombs bursting in air”—a pyrotechnic display of “sound and fury signifying nothing.”

And the masses will be taken in again.  Another “holiday” will come and they’ll forget the outsourced jobs, and the TARP funds and “stimulus packages” that put their tax money in the hands of banksters; they’ll forget about “change we can believe in,” and trudging through the snow in New Hampshire and Iowa so ready to believe once more, God Almighty just once again let it be so: the City on the Hill, “purple mountain majesties,” “America, the Beautiful.”

So ready, so willing, so eager to believe that the System can work, that the People, The People, Yes!—have a voice.

Back to the Financial Times. Just before our ne plus ultra election, columnist David Walker (at the time of the writing, the comptroller general of the U.S., and head of the US Government Accountability Office) proffered the de rigeur comparison of  America and Rome.  More things to worry about; we compare in these ways: “First … a decline in moral values and political civility. … [including] the devaluation of life, greater self-centeredness by individuals and increased partisanship and ideological divides in Congress.”  (Throw in the death of the extended family, and now the nuclear, in the last 60 years and I’d say we compare fairly well with the height of the Roman orgiastic period and the plutocrat Cicero railing against his maligned victim Catiline.)  “Second, we now have an overextended military around the world.”  (Mr. Walker reminds us that our military is “unmatched,” but, alas, it is “under stress.”)  “Last, there is fiscal irresponsibility by the central government.  Our debt ratios are set to increase dramatically when the baby boomers retire.”

Of course, the solution to the last part of this triumvirate of problems is simple: Don’t let the baby boomers retire!  And, indeed, in recent months all those California-dreamin’, woozy Woodstock refugees have moved their retirement dates back from a lusty 62—thank goodness for Viagra and Dos Equis!—to a more shuffle-boarding-ready 67 or, even, sweet Jesus, 70, or phlegmatic Walmart-greeter, 75!  We now can answer McCartney: “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64?”  Well … actually … no. …

All of which leads me to conclude—as the latest news drones in the background—another 76 barbecued in Iraq today!—all of which leads me to conclude: on the 4th of July, the rational man and woman, the feeling ones, the sensible ones, the unclouded, the mind-free, the spiritually unshackled, will do everything they can to eschew participation in that idiot display of hubris, chutzpah, chicanery, vaudeville and irrelevance.  Perhaps he or she will take refuge, too, not in the verities of the lost Republics of ancient Rome or almost equally ancient America, but in the still fresh insights of the Taoist poet-philosopher who wrote: “By and by comes the great awakening, and then we find out that this life is really a great dream.  Fools think they are awake now, and flatter themselves they know.”  If Chuangtse’s words pry open consciousness a little, let us consider where and how we have strayed down the thorny, primrose paths of power and self-aggrandizement, and reflect on the words of the disciple’s teacher:

“Cultivated in the individual, character will become genuine; cultivated in the family, character will become abundant; cultivated in the village, character will multiply; cultivated in the state, character will prosper; cultivated in the world, character will become universal.”

Gary Corseri has published his work at hundreds of venues, including Dandelion Salad, CounterPunch, The New York Times, Village Voice and Dissident Voice.  He has performed his work at the Carter Presidential Library and Museum and his dramas have been performed on Atlanta-PBS and elsewhere.  He has taught in prisons and universities.  His books include: Holy Grail, Holy Grail; A Fine Excess; and Manifestations (edited). He can be reached at


[DS added the video]

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