Saturday, January 26, 2013

Just like video games

This past Friday on the TV news, all the liberal cable channels were aghast at what Prince Harry had (apparently) just said, giving an interview (being badgered) standing by his dusty helicopter in Afghanistan (or recently in Afghanistan.) Helicopters of modern vintage have a dazzling array of automatic functions and blinking-light star wars consoles and so (to me) it seemed only natural to compare the operation of a chopper in combat as akin to playing a video game. Of course, this was in uber-poor taste for the prince to do: comparing the killing of Taliban to a sort of video game. He meant no harm. He was only trying to explain the process to a bunch of dumb reporters. But all the press and cable TV stations were aghast, as I say - their liberal jaws slack with unutterable shock, their sensibilities gripped with a horror too intense, too awful to describe. Oh! How they will assail him in the days to come, thinks I, as I watch the charming camo-clothed chubby red-haired munchkin use his index fingers and thumbs to illustrate how one goes about strafing assorted Taliban positions. Nothing was mentioned about the Taliban also shooting up at the prince, since the American press consider them to be simply misunderstood freedom fighters.

I left it for the TV news folk to translate what he said for me. Although I watched the film clip that accompanied the story, I couldn't understand two words in a row what the exuberant Captain Wales was saying, so I was forced to accept the newscasters' version. Where are those helpful subtitles under the picture when you really need them? Is he from the North of England? My American ears simply couldn't attune to his vocal cadence. I used to be able to understand him. Perhaps Afghanistan has introduced some sort of desert impediment. You think? Well, hell, it might have been me, I could have been partly to blame, as Jimmy Buffet is fond of singing.

But, speaking of killing one's enemies with disrespect, I must admit that I immediately thought of the American drones over Pakistan or wherever. These are "flown" by pilots sitting in front of TV monitors, reacting to the visual input of the drone, miles away, and controlling it with their various remote control joysticks. So how the heck is that different than killing your enemies like they were pawns in a video game?

I ask you.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Solemnity of manner


noun: dignity, seriousness, or solemnity of manner.

As in, "Dorianne Laux's poems bring a gravitas and solidity to the ordinary aspects of American life, [....]"

So now I know. And all this time I thought gravitas was a synonym for cojones, or chutzpah. As in, "Jerome finally mustered up the gravitas to stand up to the snarling dominatrix, even as she swung him by his gravitas in a wide circle like a dead cat."

Turns out it is from the Latin, and thus purely BritishSpeak and not even meant for Americans to hear, much less try to use.

Go figure.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

America Ensues

Or, "A brief overview of American history written for people who live in other countries and don'r really care that much."

1. Explorers from Europe came to what they later called “America” in ships, and, well, explored.

2. More explorers came. Settlements were established. Some failed, some persisted. Land was “claimed” in the name of this or that “crown”, just as if the land wasn’t already owned by someone else.

3. More people came. Not just explorers but permanent squatters, for various reasons. Such as religious freedom and running from debt collectors. And such.

4. More and more and more people came over from Europe until the actual owners of these “new lands” began to think: “Holy mackeral! Enough is enough!” and began to defend their land and livelihood.

5. Too late. Too many white eyes had come. With guns.

6. The various “crowns” began to recognize the squatter settlements and give large amounts of land they didn’t own to various favorite individuals and corporate raiders.

7. Plunder ensued.

8. Still more people came. Eventually, they began to truly BELIEVE they owned the new lands they had explored and squatted on and plundered.

9. They called themselves "colonies," no longer trying to hide the fact that they were colonizing. Imperialistically-like.

10. Too late, the true landlords realized their immigration policy was flawed, and their lands were stolen away.

11. Maybe a hundred years pass. Many more people from Europe (all with guns) continue to illegally immigrate. The illegals slowly begin to realize they were sending a lot of goods and taxes to the "crown" with not a whole lot in return. A few of them decide that maybe they just wouldn't do it anymore.

12. Tea parties ensue.

13. Hundreds of ships arrive, courtesy of “The Crown,” loaded with red-suited guys, all with guns. Guns are an American way of life.

14. Militias being not yet well-regulated, much American ass is kicked.

15. France ensues.

16. The crown shrugs. What the hell. The USA ensues.

17. The colonies are now called “states.” They agree to form a confederation called The United States of America for mutual protection and regulated money and commerce. Or something like that. Union ensues. No power is given to the federal government though. Chaos ensues.

18. The Founding Fathers ensue.

19. The southern states finally agree to allow a few changes to be made to the Articles of Confederation. Perhaps a little power to the central government might be in order. Changes, not wholesale replacements.

20. The Founding Fathers replace the whole damn thing. Much southern pissedoffedness ensues. Especially about slavery. Compromises ensue.

21. The actual owners of the land ask politely what’s in it for them in this new paper. The Founding Fathers tell them they can’t vote or have their land back, but they won’t be taxed either. That’s mighty white of you, the Indians reply. More divisiveness ensues.

22. Decades pass. The true owners of the land are absorbed or driven farther and farther west. Manifest Destiny is assumed. Mexico has most of the vast amounts of lands she has stolen from the Indians restolen in the name of that “destiny.” Texas, California, and the New Mexico territories ensue.

23. Slavery continues in the southern states. The can is kicked down the road again and again and again.

24. Abraham Lincoln ensues.

25. Upon Abe’s election, the southern slave states secede from the union. Lincoln demurs. War ensues.

26. By executive order, Lincoln frees the slaves. The south is eventually subjugated. Lincoln is assassinated. Reconstruction ensues.

27. The gospel of Manifest Destiny persists. Westward expansion and huge landgrabs follow. Railroads are built. Gold and silver are discovered. The rightful owners of the land are herded onto reservations. Genocide ensues.

28. The Guilded Age blossoms. Cutthroat capitalism makes a few robber barons outlandishly wealthy. Common people live in abject poverty. Immigrants arrive by the tens of thousands from Europe and Asia. Exploitation ensues.

29. The twentieth century arrives with marvelous promise and wonderful inventions, but with wars and pestilence as well. Females of the species are discovered, and they want to vote. The U.S. is forced to step in and save Europe from it’s bickering and folly by winning the Great War for them. Workers unite. Labor unions ensue.

30. The economy collapses. Brother, can you spare a dime? FDR and his New Deal arrive. The New Deal is Socialism. America will never be the same. Good.

31. Once again, America is forced to go win a European war for them. An unearthly bright light turns the nighttime sky of the New Mexico desert as bright as day. Wonderment. Hell is unleashed. Armageddon ensues. Imperial Japan is subdued, but the genie is forever out of the bottle.

32. A new era of prosperity seems to be within grasp. The Cold War and the Space Race come and go. Somewhere in between the promised prosperity and the Berlin Wall and the Space Shuttle, America loses sight of what it is and why it is.

33. Jimmy Carter ensues.

34. Greed, hedonism, and a lack of focus or purpose leads the once-powerful and respected land called America down the path of disunity, bullying, and absence of any real moral character. Heavy borrowing from enemies ensues until the country is bankrupt. The rightful landowners turn to casinos for survival.

35. From nothing back to nothing in 400 years.

36. Ignorance ensues.


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