[Editor's Note: 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. Her new column, Exene Says…, is her space to basically just write what's on her mind, everything from crazy life stories to political theories and observations about what's going on in this fucked up world of ours. To contact her, send all messages to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
Last week, referencing the opposition to President Barack Obama's recent gun-control agenda, Vice President Joe Biden delivered a mocking line: "The black-helicopter crowd really is upset." he said. "No way that Uncle Sam can go find out whether you own a gun because we're about to really take away all your rights, and you're not going to be able to defend yourself, and we're going to swoop down with Special Forces folks and gather up every gun in America." The image seems utterly ridiculous, unless you experienced it for yourself.
I grew up in a very small, rural town in Illinois, about 35 miles southwest of Chicago. It was pretty isolated in 1965; from my front yard, I could see a farm's silo and barn off on the horizon.
My parents' old Chicago friends would sometimes visit us "out in the country." One time, some friends brought their daughter, who was about 9 years old, the same age I was. While the grown-ups were barbecuing and drinking highballs, she and I ran off to play. We wandered off into the old fallow fields that stretched toward that silo and barn.
Half a mile from my house, we slipped through an old barbed-wire fence. While I was chewing on a long stalk of wild grass, I looked up into the clear-blue summer sky and saw a tiny black dot. I pointed and asked, "What's that?" As soon as I uttered those words, that black dot came straight down and was upon us. We both began to run as fast as we could toward my house. It seemed to be chasing us; I looked over my left shoulder and could see only black, no sky at all. We came to that barbed-wire fence, and I thought that if we could just get through the fence, we would somehow be safe.
Once we were past the fence, I turned to see a completely silent, solid-black helicopter hovering a foot over the wild grasses. It felt evil, and my sense was that there were men inside laughing, trying to kill us, but we escaped. We ran full-speed to my house. I was in a state of terror.
This is a universe of high strangeness, and what we see and feel and experience is unique to each of us. Dismissing and invalidating those individual experiences, ridiculing those who question . . . well, that isn't working anymore. Special Forces "folk" are coming to invade us and destroy our freedoms, says the vice president. For once, I will take him at his word.
Yes, Mr. Biden, the black-helicopter crowd really is upset.