Who Will Protect Us From Our Protectors?

by Phil Rockstroh

January 19, 2004   


O Mr. Ashcroft, Mr. Ridge, Mr. Bush, et al., O you fine and noble lords of the light, you stalwarts of the sun, you luminous knights of Christ, with your armor glinting golden in the light of eternal certitude -- O You ever-vigilant foes of those unholy demons borne of darkness and all other demimonde of moral murk and gauzy uncertainty -- could I trouble you to just turn down the glare of your glowing goodness, for just a moment? I have a question or two I'd like to ask you.

Yes, I know you believe we are drowning in depravity. Yes, I realize that you have set about to obliterate every last one of our sins by plucking us from the devouring tides of our churning turpitude and depositing us safely upon the sheltering shores of Christian salvation -- but the righteous glare of your unrelenting scrutiny is becoming a damn nuisance. I chance to ask you -- is it possible to be drowned in the all-encompassing light of your ceaseless vigilance?

You must have noticed that light can flow and flood as well: Cannot one be just as easily drawn towards the deadly mirages created by your promises of total safety and security? For it seems we might be marching further and further into the desert of despotism, drawn to the dazzle of its illusionary oasis of protective light.

Mr. Ashcroft, Mr. Ridge, Mr. Bush, et al., what are your motives? Why do you proffer these comforting delusions that one can exist -- vouchsafed in a divine womb of protective luminescence, suspended in a pristine state of being beyond all harm, floating upon pool toys of celestial certainty?

You know, I'm coming to suspect that this incessant hectoring of yours is bordering on obsession -- such is the extent of your heliotropic intolerance of the excesses of a summer night and your autocratic insistence of the sanctioning of the vagaries of moonlight: I'm growing to suspect that diffidence and darkness cannot be entirely banished, that there are no available medications that will lift the moon's languor: moral clarity will not modify her erratic disposition; she will never chant positive affirmations and free market platitudes to the prey who are hunted by the merciless beauty of her sun-pilfered light.

I am willing to hazard a guess that neither industry, nor thrift, nor a salesman's razzle dazzle, nor another round of massive tax-cuts, nor a rapacious empire's ruthless armies, nor a sleepless fleet of spy satellites in space, nor a million surveillance cameras trained on every person, place and thing on the planet could keep the oceanic vicissitudes of earthly existence from rising, nor the gales of contretemps from blowing, nor the casuistry-sundering storms of uncertainty from making landfall.

I am sorry for these heresies, but these things seem true to me now, true in the manner that the stars are always present, even when obscured by the light of day. As of late, I can't help but notice that even on cloudless days, shadows puddle and pool around us like rainwater after a sudden thunderstorm.

After emerging from the mouth of darkness engendered by the catastrophic events of the eleventh of September, 2001, we were devoured by a leviathan of light. Both worlds seem uninhabitable to me now. I realize that the former way: Of tottering through life as an oblivious bliss-ninny is as salubrious as a tsunami; but your way -- of total scrutiny and unblinking surveillance -- is as seductive as a bare light bulb. Now: I am in constant search of places of provisional providence where light and darkness merge and mingle: The lambent eloquence of candle light, The plangent exhalation of orgasmic delight. (Although you have put me on notice that: If I ever visit the state of Texas, I cannot use a Vibrator of Mass Destruction (VMD) to achieve that end.)

Yes, I can hear you hissing, producing the sound of piss upon flames. Perhaps, it will be necessary to draw you out, to call you out, to have it out with you -- you soul-defying monster of grotesque perfectionism, you icy-fingered demon of exacting empiricism, you who loves the world so dearly you would embalm it in formaldehyde rather than let it fade.

Show me your blank face in all its banal symmetry. You name the place: On a thronging sidewalk on Fifth Avenue, during the evening rush, brushed and buffeted by the squalid grace of crowds; or you might take the barstool next to mine and speak too loudly in my throbbing ear, jabbing my chest with your bony index finger to punctuate your pointless palaver; let's take a cross country drive, you and I, and watch the landscape unfurl before us through the dusty windshield of a grasshopper green, 1975, AMC Gremlin.

We have to end this impasse. You must show me who and what you are.

Though, I fear, I might already know.

Though you disguise yourself as the flourishing essence of existence, you are, in fact, its very opposite: I have concluded you are the temporally dormant seed of our death that broods within us.

This is the secret of your arrogance, the source of your power over us. It provides you with the means to cloak your true motives, even from yourself.

You have learned we will be attracted to your ruses, that we will be ever entranced by the comforting lie that you can and will create for us a world that will exist beyond all harm, because we cannot bare to look upon your true face and glimpse the grim truth revealed in its death-dealing countenance hidden behind the mask of righteousness you wear, a mask you have worn for so long you believe it to be your own face.

Your true appearance is not as it has been portrayed in the popular imagination: No cliché scathe and hackneyed hood for you -- You need to draw from a pool of humanity greater than the flakes and fantasy-prone teenagers who would be impressed by that tired act of thanatotic drag.

You are a clean-shaven technocrat, a public relations expert, a clever ad writer, a manufacturer of guns and bombs, a pentagon planner, you're the bastard driving the SUV who is perpetually tailing my ass in traffic, you're my cretinous, next-door neighbor, lacquering his hybrid lawn in insoluble pesticides -- You are all the respectable, hence highly deceptive faces of Death -- You promise safety, but deliver us to the slaughter.

How do I reach you? How do I prevail upon you not to overreach your mandate? Do you have to be so damn driven? So damn good at your job? Can't you just be a shabby-ass fuck-up like the rest of us?

Do you think, perhaps, on some occasion, at day's end, you might manage to still the strobing florescent fury of this ceaseless campaign of yours to subdue all shadows -- to shatter to shards all sorrow -- and, for a few short moments, attempt to compose for yourself a mind comprised of evening shade....

Forgive me for this moment of preposterous reverie -- but I am overwhelmed by the immensity of it all, of the implacable scale of this endless litany of loss you exact upon us without a hint of reflection or remorse.

Might it come as a relief, even to you, to call a temporary halt to it all?

Or would your rapacious rage for despotic order only gather strength during the respite -- rising with renewed intensity, scouring earth and sky to remove any trace of tears, heralding in an unforgiving age where every flaw is revealed, every sin is scrutinized, every surface sanitized of every impurity, every blemish picked to a dry scab, every living organ vivisected, every perceived enemy bombed into oblivion, until the breathing earth is rendered safe, pristine, perfect, and flawlessly dead?

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America the 'beautiful' on Swans


Phil Rockstroh on Swans (with bio).

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Published January 19, 2004
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