We are a late-arriving generation. Too young for the ignobility of Vietnam, and not even a thought in the mind of our noble forebearers who stormed European beaches and proved that American ingenuity could reduce the enemy to shadows and ash. Those of us born in the 1970′s and after arrived in time for the leftovers, but not the main course. For a time, I imagine, it must have seemed as if America were flying straight into the blue yonder, like an arrow shot from Jefferson’s bow. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Domestic oil. An end to segregation. Footprints on the moon.
I know, I know; I’m romanticizing. I’ve read A People’s History of the United States, and spent my undergraduate days with Noam Chomsky like a good and proper intellectual, but still, there’s not a cynic among you who hasn’t wilted in history’s glass, at the things that have been done before us–accomplished with a quill and a roving eye.
I’m not suggesting, of course, that we have nothing to show for ourselves. Not at all. We’ve become expert at stoking our vanities. Facebook. Twitter. Text messages. Blogs. And then there’s the epileptic speed of it all. I could stop writing, open Skype, and have a conversation with my Bohemian brother in Korea in less time than it’s taken me to go back and rewrite this sentence. My relatives in Germany can be communicated with as carelessly as co-workers at an office water cooler. Yes, the world is smaller, but a bit duller for it.
It’s a dark night in America. Two wars. Tomahawks in Tripoli. Cancerous unemployment. Politics for third graders, and comedy the only outlet for news without a spoon. Yes, it’s a dark night in America, and my mood is dark alongside it. I pick up the phone to Polyhymnia, but there’s no answer. The number’s no good, so instead I turn to Nyx and Erebus, tracing the velvet rune of my bitterness.
Sometimes I fantasize that somewhere some incontinent old woman is keeping the last great tropes locked in a basement, and I have the right stuff to take them back. I imagine her home near the mouth of some ancient river, now dry and heavily bombed by the faithful. Her house by the sand and shelf, a vast simian dream of rubber plants and banana leaves in the shape of a hoop–loopty looped about the axial tilt. So I mount up with my brothers to manifest our destiny and return like cowboys–all stirrups, spurs and six shooters.
I’ll cry, “Stand up and cock those raptors, boys! Triangulate the supersonic stone.”
And as my compatriots scramble to war, I’ll think, “I deserve to win, don’t I? I’ve earned the right to pulverize this motley crew of strangers babbling all around the round, haven’t I? This old woman has it coming. She should have kept herself young and firm and ready.”
I mean, we’ve trained 2,000 years, cut our teeth on bitter Greek roots, fashioned staggering sepulchral centers of ingenuity that are rippling across the Earth like waves of a displaced God, and I for one am not going to shirk my responsibilities. Yes, they speak of Jihad as if it’s another man’s war, but we know better. We are the anointed. We will punish the dark. Turn the whole steaming pile into a sterile diorama of networks and refrigeration.
Whatever the losses, we must return to that river—blue—we must return to that hoop—silver—drive that woman into the hairy pubis of the world—barren. Watch her choke on our hospitality and gracious living and return to that basement—god—and liberate those tropes—god—we’ll set them up so I can really use them, use them hard and relentless—god—and punish them for being a bad, bad girl—god—and redeem them with my pen.