[Editor's Note: Our esteemed punk-rock columnist Exene Cervenka wanted to share a short story. Since most everything she does is badass, we figured this would be no different. The first part ran in last week's issue.]
Her friends told her she spent too much time online. She followed YouTubers and bloggers and every alternative to mainstream media she could find. She commented on information others had painstakingly uncovered and added to the myriad of mysteries that kept deepening.
It seemed all reality was manufactured, a matrix, a rabbit hole, a sci-fi movie, a blue-screen nightmare, with the media participating in every hoax. Soon, her only friends were total strangers with whom she communicated online.
In 2008, Barack Obama, the first African-American president, won the election, promising hope and change.
Congress passed and Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) at 11:30 p.m. on New Year's Eve 2011. She knew the NDAA gave the president--and every president thereafter--the power to detain American citizens indefinitely, without charges or trial. He had even been granted the power to kill anyone suspected of associating with terrorists.
Her friends wouldn't believe her, and they refused to read the NDAA. Her friends said she was crazy, a conspiracy theorist, a tinfoil hat-wearing lunatic.
In 2012, after Obama was re-elected, drone strikes targeting civilians in other countries continued, and the drones came to the Homeland. The NDAA helped to declare the world a battlefield, and domestic terrorists were now on the hit list alongside "radical Muslim extremists." The Department of Homeland Security purchased 1.8 billion rounds of ammo, most of it .40-caliber hollow-point, which is illegal to use in war, according to the Hague Agreement.
Why had the government gone mad? They were the paranoid ones, seeing enemies where there were none.
She had never been the enemy. On July 4, 1963, she was a patriotic 7-year-old, watching the parade go down Front Street, the only real street in her small town. The firemen threw candy, and scrambling for it was the best part of the parade. Soldiers would march by with flags, girls would twirl batons, and the local tavern owner would wave from his Cadillac convertible, just as he did every year.
She remembered the open field transformed into a carnival, the Ferris Wheel and Tilt-a-Whirl, and how she won a transistor radio. She could feel herself there, transfixed by the fireworks and booming sounds of the rockets, smelling the gunpowder and smoke, loving the sparkling American flag at the finale. It was the celebration of small-town, all-white America. Black-and-white TV would soon become color and show us the United States our grade-school history books ignored, the one of racism, assassinations, the war in Vietnam, protests, corruption and lies.
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The American Dream was a cleverly designed war machine, and we kept it humming. We built skyscrapers and bridges made of iron and Democracy, there was a chicken in every pot and two cars in every suburban driveway. But the Goliath started to sputter, short out, slow and creak and stall. The American Dream Machine is now rusting in the junkyard, no one at the wheel, no power in those old metal and plastic bones.
She looked at the black markings on the band of indestructible technology permanently circling her left wrist. It was still there. It was too late to fight back. But today, being July 4, she was going to fight back, fight to the death, fight for something that never even existed.
Exene Cervenka is a writer, visual artist and punk-rock pioneer. The OC transplant is the lead singer for X, the Knitters and Original Sinners.