The United States of America has committed many crimes against the world—its “greatest hits,” off the top of my head? Let’s see: Sherman’s blitzkrieg against his own fellow American citizens. The genocide of the indigenous people of the North American continent. The instigation of the American/Spanish War. The willing duplicity and blind eye turned toward Poland and the indifference of The Holocaust during World War II (right up there w/ the Vatican—see no evil, kids.) The firebombings of Germany and Japan, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And needless to say, the grievous, slow, torturous, and absolutely hateful advance of civil liberties within our own country, our own people.
And so, so, so many other crimes—I haven’t the space or the capacity for the bloodshed and the cruelty, the selfishness of The United States of America.
But everything mentioned above occurred before I was born. When I was a baby, when I was a boy? Hey: the bombing of cambodia. The use of chemical weapons in Vietnam. Our propping up of dictators that served our interests. The incarceration and execution of our own citizens, the economic blight we have visited on our neighbors. But the worst? When I was a living thinking voting adult?
The 2003 bombing and Invasion of Iraq.
I remember March 19, 2003 with unfortunately piercing clarity.
NEW YORK CITY, MIDTOWN. It was bright and warm day. I was already sad for multiple reasons, half of them real ones—my beloved brother Noel had just died two months before; I had just bought a big goddamn house which I had no idea how to run; my wife was miserable, dislocated; my daughter was less than two; I had a very stressful big deal job for a major company I despised: McGraw-Hill, a company run by complete idiots— I was depressed. Very fucking depressed. But nothing could have prepped me for the desolation I felt on March 19, 2003.
I went to lunch w/ my friend Kyle and the pale spindly administrative assistant who thought she was in love with one of us, but she wasn’t sure which one. Her crush had nothing to do with anything, not really, and if it did, I didn’t care. Kyle was one of my best friends; we had gone through 9/11 together—Manhattan, the fall of the towers, the showers of ash, blood. We didn’t talk about it too much; we had lived it. Miranda, the assistant for the evil company for which we worked, hadn’t been there. Miranda thought everything was “wonderful.” I think we kind of pitied her.
We had lunch at Jack Dempsey’s Pub and Bar, on 33rd street, in the shadow of the Empire State building.
Kyle wanted french fries. Miranda had onion soup. I ordered a martini. I was in the habit of drinking during lunch. Our orders arrived, I sipped my martini. There were giant TV screens, everywhere.
It was around noon. The TV screens bloomed with fire.
There were muted and stupid cheers from nearly all corners of the pub, but not mine.
I ordered a second martini.
Kyle pushed away his french fries. Miranda finished her soup, started on Kyle’s unfinished fries. I ordered a third martini, then a forth, then a fifth. Then a sixth, a seventh—
The TV screens were merciless. They were red, so red —
“Drax, what the fuck is wrong w/ you?!”
“I’ve got to get out of here,” I said, “Jesus, this airstrike, this ‘war—’ God, I’m going to be sick.”
“What, the drinks?”
“No,” I gasped. “All of it. The mush-faced moron that people call Mister President—”
My friends loved me (they did, they really did), but they didn’t understand. Not really. They said I watched the explosions on the screen like a man drowning, they said they watched my caucasian complexion turn sheet white, they said as the explosions bloomed on the TV screens all over the bar I turned like a man alive to a fucking zombie, and it wasn’t the fucking drinks—
Yeah, I staggered back to work. But as I blinked in the bright grey cruel light of 33rd street, man, I had never been more ashamed of being an American son of the fucking American Empire. Ten years ago. Today.