Swans Commentary » swans.com June 20, 2005  



American Mental Health


by Michael Doliner





(Swans - June 20, 2005)   You, my dear fellow American reader, are out of your mind. Nuts, and not in a nice way. Look at your smile in the mirror and you will see it. But worry not, for you are an inmate of a vast loony bin known as the United States of America. And you belong here, too. No one will ever let on. Look around you. Is someone buying a newspaper? What could be madder? Perhaps people walk or ride to work, or enjoy themselves sitting in the sun. A couple holds hands. Madness, madness, all patent madness. Quite clearly such fools are out of touch.

Were you normal you would scream every time someone invited you to have a nice day, writhe in agony whenever you received one of those goofy smiles from a cashier. You would shoot yourself if someone at the next table commented at the quality of the wine. You would weep at the sight of a mother and child. Any mention of the President of the United States would make you puke and his image would strike you blind.

I hasten to admit that I am no saner than you. I, too, walk around engaging in the fierce farce of ordinary life. I am as responsible as anyone for this bloody nightmare at the end of the world. I admit, I have answered the phone as if nothing were wrong. I have noticed the doings of the United States Senate. I have concerned myself with the quality of my dinner. I comfort my children and worry about their future. I even try to save money knowing it is drenched in blood. I sleep in a bed, in a room, and feel safe. It is all madness...madness.

I should throw myself at Moloch, immolate myself on the White House steps, organize opposition, or something. But when I see the daft faces all around me I know I would simply be swept up, carried away, and swallowed. I would be willing to be arrested, tried, even sentenced, but not disappeared pointlessly into Moloch's maw. I could regret having only one life to give for my country, if I could stand up and say it. I would obey the laws, as Socrates taught, even to death, if it were the laws that condemned me, in an open trial, before everyone. I admit it: I don't know what to do and I'm afraid. For it is not only them. It is you and me and our crowded asylum with no one in it.

While we bask in our delusions, the very planet is becoming inhospitable. The currents of the warming oceans wane, the raging winds spin havoc in their path, the dirt becomes infertile, and the sun burns. Lakes and rivers dry up to deprive us of their use. Viruses mutate in our blood, trick our science, and kill us horribly. Pandemics are breeding in the chickens. Noble species, refusing to share the man-made muck, withdraw from the earth, leaving us and the jackals to fight over the garbage. In time the violated moon will swamp our coastal cities with high tides. Could something be wrong? Meanwhile, we worry about a scratch on our car, cleverly invest in the real estate bubble, and on and on and on. Oblivious, we mouth demented platitudes that comfort us with their banality and provide us with our silk-lined ostrich holes. If nothing else, the peak of oil will defeat us. Still deluded, we will ride down its black, slippery nether slope on the toboggan of our greed. Slurping down the goo, we will drain the remaining pools, fighting to the death for the last drop. Will that end our madness, our dream of lifelong fetushood? Will that end boobs and beaches, barbecues and lawns, frequent flier miles and limousines that leave us and our date right at the door? Already checkpoints keep us from these dreams.

We have sent monsters in human form to haunt a broken landscape, commit unspeakable atrocities, smile the death's-head grin, then write home to mom, dad, bro, and sweetie. They will return to hugs, and crumble into bits. But they are just the end of a long line. The Lakota Sioux called us the Wasichu, he who eats the fat, and so we are. Nothing else, really, is left of us. Madness has emptied our souls and clouded our mirrors. And that is as it must be. If we could see ourselves we couldn't go on. "SOCRATES: Well, is life worth living with a body which is worn out and ruined in health? CRITO: Certainly not. SOCRATES: What about the part of us which is mutilated by wrong actions and benefited by right ones? Is life worth living with this part ruined? Or do we believe that this part of us, whatever it may be, in which right and wrong operate, is of less importance than the body? CRITO: Certainly not. SOCRATES: It is really more precious. CRITO: Much more. "(Plato, Crito, 47e-48a) Such thoughts are not for the likes of us, but even so, the faces of our past begin to bleach. Columbus, Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, F.D.R., even Kennedy no longer look as they once did. The sand of propaganda can't hold back waves of revelation that wash out images of those we once thought good. Columbus Day is an embarrassment and the birthdays have paled to "President's Day"; not a commemoration, but a vacation. Jefferson had black nookie on the side. Pearl Harbor may have been something of a set up, the Civil War was the beginning of the imperial presidency and the beginning of the end of the Constitution. Wasichu lurks behind every step in our history. Izak Dinesen, in Germany to observe the Third Reich before the war, said that propaganda was like spending your capital. It dilutes the very worth of human speech reducing it to cacophonous noise. To quote our illustrious leader: blah, blah, blah. Even our sophisms are wearing out. "It's always been this way. That's life." Somehow this thought doesn't screen us from ourselves as it used to. We know, we know, in spite of all the claptrap. Our madness is the struggle to not know. Every daily move displays that madness; every pleasantry is a psychotic denial of the awful truth.

How could we bear to know what we have done unless, with Milton's Satan we can say, "evil, be thou my good?" Many now clutch close the satanic choice like the poxy blanket, our first gift to the New World. Evil, be thou my good. It's so cozy wrapped up with our "contractors," and the corpses feed the edgy fever that marks the American style of soulless pudgy bankers lost in visions of mayhem. Our emptiness thus enfolded in evil, we career on, and, like Major T. J. Kong, we ride the manic Satanic on down.

Better have another beer. Motor across the lake in your new boat, drop anchor, meet Bob, mouth platitudes across the water, drink another cold one, then head back. Hook up again at the dock of that lakeside steak place. Ah, that's the life. Kids a bit unruly? Whose aren't? This new self-help guru will fix them up. You read this book then teach them to be human. It's a snap. Life is good. That's what you have to keep telling yourself. Life is good.

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About the Author

Michael Doliner has taught at Valparaiso University and Ithaca College. He lives with his family in Ithaca, N.Y.



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This Edition's Internal Links

A Teacher to Emulate: Richard Macintosh (1933-2005) - Gilles d'Aymery

My Friend, Richard - Alma A. Hromic

Richard And Me - Deck Deckert

Richard Macintosh's Archives

Effective And Not So Effective Side Effects - Philip Greenspan

The Insurgent Word: Impeachment - Gerard Donnelly Smith

Rwanda: The General's Story - Mick Collins Interview

US Foreign Policy Toward Iran And Iran's Nuclear Program - Ardeshir Ommani

Brecht In Hollywood - Charles Marowitz

McLibel: Food For Thought And Inspiration For The Soul - Jan Baughman

Blips #21 - From the Editor's desk

Letters to the Editor

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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
URL for this work: http://www.swans.com/library/art11/mdolin08.html
Published June 20, 2005