Friday, May 1, 2009


My old man never killed anyone.
He never, for example, burned the skin off a child. He never shot anyone in the stomach. He never shot anyone in the head. He never crippled anyone, he never put a bullet in anyone’s back, he never put a knife in anybody’s gut.

Yet there he was, my old man, as much a part of the twentieth century as his kids, as me, as much under the missile thumb, the nukes just beyond the horizon. Our sky, so beautifully latticed, by the planners, with missile and countermissile in the last spiral down. The last bit of the World War which, the plan was, we would get stuffed down our throats. Out of that invisible web of death came the real web of highways, suburbs, computers and the web I publish this on. Out of the collective death wish, our collective death in life.

Anyway, the old man was part of the generation in the U.S. that was drafted to go to Korea. He avoided that draft. He was too young to have been in WWII.

But the killers in our midst, from the first World War onward, were numerous. In the millions. Myself, I was too young for the killing in Vietnam, but I do remember my older sister’s then fiancé announcing that his draft number – this must have been 71? – came up real low. Came up so that he wouldn’t have to sacrifice his body, or his sanity, to destroying Vietnamese. He was very happy. Of course, even if he had gone, it all turns out just like in the tale of Bluebeard, where you can hide any number of dead bodies in a locked chamber. Or at least for the majority, and for the marginals, there are any number of mood altering drugs, and if necessary, there's prison. And so it was that millions came home, having been trained as killers, armed to kill, and threatened with being killed if they didn’t kill. The chamber in which all that was remembered was locked, and no bride was going to get that key. For these were not Bluebeards by choice.

And so it is that normality sits at a table and eats, goes to work, makes love, makes money, retires. And the normality of dropping a bomb, shooting a gun, marching past a torched street, dodging an child’s shot and shooting the child, every bone and hair of these arduous proofs of masculinity, the human meat grinding machine in all its everydayness, it is all shut up nicely. That is, in the post killing societies - mustn't forget the societies in which killing is the new normal, Afghanistan, the Congo, Iraq, etc. In the brain, in the tv show, in the movie, we watch the killing soften. The state, the generator of the wars, becomes as well the generator of the normal.

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