Dreams of nights freely living, nightmares of days freely dying

I’m listening to one of my favorite albums because I knew I was bound to cry so fuck it. Small, deliberate tears, then. In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the universe.

We woke up to a familiar scene. American life steeped in national, shared mourning over what we’ve allowed ourselves to become. Tears shed for the dead and for the living in our meek powerlessness. The exercise so bleakly frequent that it’s nothing if not a trite cliché. How, exactly, are we to perform this secular liturgy, these audiovisual dirges, with some semblance of honesty if we’re asked to do so every several weeks?

By trembling mea culpa, maybe.

We pay for the sins of our interlocking family trees daily. Failures both recent and forgotten are left unattended in society’s timeline, tasks for another day, another generation, all coming to a head in a scattered cacophony of reminders. Gunshot wounds and ambulance sirens transform into faded Post-It notes scribbled with regret. 

Voices from the past urging us to recognize that this has always been who we are.

And so.

Was this always inevitable? Are those scribbled reminders, in fact, immovable points in time with unbreakable causal chains? Perhaps the weight of history is simply too much, too long in its undisturbed path that our inherited course of civilization is guided by the inertia of our myriad heritages of hate?

None of this is surprising, in other words, though it remains deeply shocking. We began from a point of devaluing human life, as a legal fact and an assumed moral certainty, and we have remained there with persistent clarity of thought; remained static with bodily violence as if no other paradigm was possible. We chose this for ourselves again and again, the blood on our hands invisible from our chosen point of view. 

And so.

This has never not been a country where disagreements and differences weren’t sorted at the barrel of a gun and that doesn’t change simply. Our national identity has been chosen for us and by us; bound into profits and lobbied interests, violence is unmistakably and fiercely American. 

So, another day of another iteration of our ritual, our mourning over the dead, and our interaction with the guilt we may or may not feel. Another day to recognize who and what we are, or to ignore it at our peril.

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2 Responses to Dreams of nights freely living, nightmares of days freely dying

  1. Better said than I could ever hope to. We Americans have a problem with honest assessment of our history and, consequently, with honest repentance. In fact we go to great lengths to avoid honesty and repentance. We say, ” Mistakes were made,” rather than, “We screwed up bigtime and we’re sorry.” As Malvina Reynolds put it in Little Boxes, “When will be ever learn?”

  2. I cited the wrong songwriter and wrong song for “When will they ever learn?” It was Pete Seeger’s Where Have All the Flowers Gone.

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