Wednesday
Sep082004

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One Thousand. By any measure, it's a magical number imbued with significance. It is also the first number, that when spelled out, includes an "A" in its spelling. One thousand of anything is a great achievement. And now, we have reached this epic milestone in American history. A kiloperson death toll in a war that we had no moral basis for fighting. Give yourself a hand, George Dubble-you Bush.

To commemorate, let me hand copy a key bit of information from the introduction (written in 1970) to Dalton Trumbo's book Johnny Got His Gun (written in 1938-39), a wonderful book about the wretchedness that is war, and all that misguided thinking that goes into it, and the defence of the institution.

Numbers have dehumanized us. Over breakfast coffee we read of 40,000 American dead in Vietnam. Instead of vomiting, we reach for the toast. Our morning rush through crowded streets is not to cry murder but to hit that trough before somebody else gobbles our share.

An equation: 40,000 dead men = 3,000 tons of bone and flesh, 124,000 pounds of brain matter, 50,000 gallons of blood, 1,840,000 years of life that will never be lived, 100,000 children who will never be born. (The last we can afford: there are too many starving children in the world already.)
[Do the math, divide all these numbers by 40, and get the approximate numbers for Iraq]

Do we scream in the night when it touches our dreams? No. We don't dream about it because we don't think about it; we don't think about it because we don't care about it. We are much more interested in law and order, so that American streets may be made safe while we transform those of Vietnam [Iraq] into flowing sewers of blood which we replenish each year by forcing our sons to choose between a prison cell here or a coffin there. "Every time I look at the flag, my eyes fill with tears." Mine too.

If dead men mean nothing to us (except on Memorial Day weekend when the national freeway is clotted with surfers, swimmers, skiers, picknickers, campers, hunters, fishers, footballers, beer-busters), what of our 300,000 wounded? Does anyone know where they are? How do they feel? How many arms, legs, ears, noses, mouths, faces, penises they've lost? How many are deaf or dumb or blind or all three? How many are single or double or triple or quadruple amputees? How many will remain immobile for the rest of their days? How many will hang on as decerebrated vegetables quietly breathing their lives away in small, dark, secret rooms?

Write the Army, the Air Force, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the Army and Navy hospitals, the Director of Medical Sciences at the National Library of Medicine, the Veterans Administration, the Office of the Surgeon General—and be surprised by what you don't learn. One agency reports 726 admissions "for amputation services" since January, 1965. Another reports 3,011 amputees since the beginning of the fiscal year 1968. The rest is silence.

The Annual Report of the Surgeon General: Medical Statstics of the United States Army ceased publication in 1954. The Library of Congress repoerts that the Army Office of the Surgron General for Medical Statistics "does not have figures on single or multiple amputees." Either the government doesn't think them important or, in the words of a researcher of one of the national television networks, "the military itself, while sure of how many tons of bombs it has dropped, is unsure of how many legs and arms of its men have been lost."

If there are no concrete figures, at least we are beginning to get comparative ones. Proportionately, Vietnam has given us eight times as many paralytics as World War II, three times as many totally disabled, 35% more amputees. Senator Cranston of California concludes that out of every hundred army veterans receiving compensation for wounds received in action in Vietnam, 12.4% are totally disabled. Totally.

But exactly how many hundreds of the dead-while-living does that give us? We don't know. We don't ask. We turn away from them; we avert the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, face. "Why should I look, it wasn't my fault, was it?" It was of course, but no matter. Time passes. Death waits even for us. We have a dream to pursue, the whitest white hope of them all, and we must follow and find it before the light fails.

So long, losers. God bless. Take care. We'll be seeing you.

You know the sad thing? The sad thing is, that even if you oppose war, and oppose Bush, the fact remains that in some really fucked up way, he is actually doing the bidding of all American citizens. I may need to qualify that. He is doing the bidding of American citizens who feel the life they lead now is the life they will lead tomorrow. Well folks, the phenomenon of peak oil says otherwise. Oil WILL FAIL US. The only brakes we can put on now to keep from carreening off the road, is to fight wars to secure the stuff, or to subdue those who feel they need what we have now come to regard as an American birthright. So really, since most every American thinks that the economy should be this way or that (usually citing 1999 as a good year, and usually hoping for better still), or thinking that the lights will come on, or the water will flow, or whatever, we are all in for a huge clusterfuck if we don't fight for all the oil we can get. Protest the war if you want. I do. But the fucking war is being fought for all of us who use cars, appliances, lights, heaters, AC, video games, computers, and every other thing that we use every day. Without this unelected asshole fighting for oil, our lifestyle is in deep shit. Kerry unfortunately has to answer to the same god.

Hey, I hate war. I really do. It's evil. It's the most base thing humans can do to one another, and the sad thing is, we're getting better at it! But we still don't learn. The answer to this war is not just to protest it and get Bush to answer to us about it. The answer is to fucking stop being such selfish pigs when it comes to energy consumption. Without oil, America dries up. With oil, America sleepwalks into the future. We are 5% of the world's population, but use 25% of the world's resources. We are fucking spoiled, and the party is about to end. Wonder why our economy is stagnant? No growth? Blackouts? It's all that we have peaked in this particular form of "civilization" we live in. The earth is like a cow that can't give more milk. But instead of drinking less milk, we bludgeon the poor beast and fight amongst each other for the drops that do appear. It makes me just want to cry to realize that we have failed so miserably.

So protest if it makes you happy. But then go home and do something responsible. Use less fucking energy, be more sensitive about the whole matrix that is modern life, and give the idiot fascist politicians less reason to go out and get our young men killed.

But don't let this little rant rain on your parade. Get back into the SUV and drive somewhere needlessly. It's the American thing to do.

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