by Phil Rockstroh

June 23, 2003


"You can never get enough of what you don't really want."
--Eric Hoffer

It might appear that we've lost all sense of proportion: In that -- how huge and grotesque things have become: Colossal motor vehicles; the portions of food I crave; gaudy, land-devouring McMansions; my own and other American (once) citizen's/(now) consumer's sea-to-shining-sea asses. Some malcontent blowhard might strain to make a connection here: Fat-ass homes, trucks and SUVs -- fat-asses inside those homes, trucks and SUVs.... Our bellies grow -- nature contracts: After dinner, I loosen my belt and my engorged gut expands and displaces a tapir in the Amazonian rain forest; the more stuffed my freezer becomes, the more the polar ice caps shrink -- I mindlessly scoop a third helping of ice-cream and a polar bear slips through thinning Arctic ice. There is not a granule of truth to the supposition that: My awareness of all this is as diminished as sea-life in the over-fished oceans. That: Schools of neurons disappear as I reach for another benumbing beer. Though: I will admit that I find my prescribed dosage of Paxil taken with a double mochachino latte chaser does the trick; now, I find a fleeting sense of accomplishment by the act of winnowing down my world to only what is absolutely controllable -- So tell me, how am I supposed to provide succor to the dying seas?

But I have found that as I make my world smaller and smaller, all of the fixtures, objects, and accouterment in it have grown larger and larger: From convenience store cups, to traffics jams; from the sprawling subdivision where I live, to the greedy, super-sized sense of entitlement of my over-wrought, super-sized child -- We seem to have super-sized our portions of resentment. My SUV is no longer large enough to contain my anger, These epic servings of food are not enough to push down my sense of disappointment, There is not enough room in my McMansion to store away all of my regret.

And now you want to tell me that the entire world hates me because I am this way. Well -- to hell with them -- because, as of late, I have developed a craving for the accumulation of guns and bombs. Right now, vast numbers of ships and planes stand ready to defend my wishes, desires, and consumer preferences. The aircraft carrier, the USS Entitlement, and the battleships, the USS Resentment and the USS Willful Ignorance, patrol the oceans of the world, ready to destroy those who would deny me my birth right to consume the world like a bag of salty snack food. The armies of my empty appetite know the world is a drive-through-takeout window and they return with the plunder of empire and a complementary bag of fries.

Don't you dare tell me it's all connected: That the flickering of my tiny desires have set the vast world aflame; that there has been needless suffering and death that history will affix to my name. Because I am nobody. I only held one small torch at Nuremberg, but who could have seen then the coming of those abominable camps -- Those decisions were not mine -- such things were not made known to me. I was nobody. Of course, I saw the glow of distant burning crosses -- but I never donned a white hood. Yes, I was slightly troubled by the occasional lynching and the laws of Jim Crowe -- but that's just the way things were in those days and what was I to do. I was nobody. And now: Don't attempt to explain to me the ruthless means by which they keep the oil flowing -- don't make me take a tour of the slaughter houses and the sausage works that feed the limitless hunger of this empire. I am nobody, a nobody among hundreds of millions of nobodies, stranded in traffic jams, clamoring at the mall's food court, flipping channels on my remote while habitually reaching for a bottomless bag of chips. Nobody better try to tell this nobody that I might be responsible for any of it in even the smallest way.

I was awoken this morning from what started out to be a very pleasant dream: In which the big guns of the USS Willful Ignorance were firing ordnance of Paxil into my open mouth, as all the peoples of the world arrived at my door, head down in reverence and supplication, to tend my yard, clean my house, and wipe my ass. The entire sky was a flat-screen television, where I was a Teletubby version of myself and George W. Bush was the face of the perpetually shining sun, and I watched as I was voted the center of all creation by a vast viewing audience of couch potato angels.... It was all so very lovely and I was completely caught up in the dream's splendor, until I realized, I was bearing witness to my coronation as the Emperor of All Nobodies. I was stricken by this development; for, this meant that I had been promoted past the level of my competence as an expert in the field of ignorance. I knew that this crown would weigh heavy upon my head, my broad butt would squirm on the throne, because my days of blameless anonymity had ended forever -- I could no longer shield myself behind the claim of obliviousness and be concealed within the mindless mob. And as I broke the bonds of gravity and ascended skyward towards the great, celestial sofas of heaven -- I saw this terrifying sight: Every nobody on the breathing earth was having the exact same dream as I.

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America the 'beautiful' on Swans


Phil Rockstroh, a self-confessed gasbag monologist, is a poet and a musician who lives in New York City (Manhattan). Rockstroh is co-author, with Chris Chandler, of Protection From All This Safety, (Portals Press, 1997, ISBN: 0916620301). He's had short fiction published in Silver Web Literary Magazine, Thin Ice, Brutarian, and poems included in a few anthologies, such as "From a Bend in the River." Owed royalties galore by various publishers, Phil Rockstroh sent his first contribution to Swans with the queasy relief that he would not be financially compensated for it.

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Published June 23, 2003
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