By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
We'll see the sun tomorrow,
Gleaming out from behind the smoke.
The pigeons will make their rounds,
There will be screams from your TV.
Someone you know may die,
And the grass will still grow.
There will be no apocalypse,
But things will get worse.
—Fleshies at the Liquid Den, Wednesday, March 19, 2003
This is such an easy war to ignore. We see nothing. We hear nothing. It's J.G. Ballard's peripheral-vision World War III, a crypto-campaign documented only as a text-crawl along the bottom of the news channels. I hate it when sci-fi writers turn out to be right, and I watch the war briefings with the sound off, and I don't miss a thing. Iggy Pop clicks into sync with Paul Bremer on that soggy early morning they put Saddam behind the TV screen: "I am a passenger/I see things from under glass . . ."
This war year has been a quiet one, so I made my own soundtrack, one long rock & roll war song, from a power chord struck 35 years ago and a snare count as flat and steady as a pen tapping on a clipboard: "I knew a guy in high school/just an average friendly guy/now he's buried in the mud/she's waiting for a soldier to come home/but she'll cry and never die/thirty seconds and a one-way ride/the pounding of the drums/such a disgrace/why do you kill all those kids over there in Vietnam?/my brother died in Vietnam/stop it/it's too loud for my ears/this ain't television/this ain't college now, students/this is the real life/the REAL LIFE!"
And it goes on. What else could you sing to me? I got friends who might go to Iraq; I got relatives who shot and killed people when they were younger than I am; I got a mile of numbers and a ton of stats; I got a stack of records that I can play through as long as the war briefings keep interrupting the late-nite TV snail-trails, and they're all gonna sync up with Washington, D.C., just so simply and perfectly. And that's the only thing that keeps me up so late: young men and women, some now dead, put what they had to say on records already gone dusty and desiccated years before I was born, years before these bombs or those started falling, before nervous self-parody mushroomed into national fiasco, and they're all still right. I like to think that makes them prescient. I have to think it just makes them smart; I have to think it makes the world something else again.
I'm sorry this isn't funny.
I am not so funny alone and quiet late at night. I watch those war briefings on TV and I watch the needle weave across the record, and I wonder which one is going to click over and off first.