donderdag, maart 20, 2003

Cirque de Guerre

Admittedly, you rushed home to join the media circus. War! War! War! was everywhere! Not palatable on the streets. The same hurried faces blurred past you, the same meandering, idiotic cellphone conversations caught in snatches as you strode purposefully home, the same tourist strollers, three paces too slow ahead of you while a drunk who'd started Happy Hour too many hours too early leaned and leered at everyone like they were family. But war was in the air, in the veins, through the underground cables and burning through the telephone wires.

You entered home gasping from two stairs at a time for too many flights, preoccupied with the time and the deadline, before clicking the remote to be invaded: staggered with the plenary of every channel, full bore, going on like a solar powered circus of unreasonable jazz: an Ornette Coleman harmolodic making your head spin with simultaneous illogic from every angle. Relieved that you have not missed the sword swallowing and the fire eating presidents, you settle in and roll a cigarette.

You were glued to MSNBC because it was the only channel with the "deadline" clock ticking down, fixated as though you were staring at One Times Square's North face clock on New Year's Eve, ignorning the iconic advertising, the news crawls, electronic billboards, the flip-flop back to former General So and So, expert of all invasions past, the anchor man with his embalmist's voice and the cartoonish maps of Iraq with arrows and pushpins sticking out of it like a voodoo doll and the strangely serene looking Baghdad.

Soon enough, soon enough: the blood pressure is rising in the ears, the stomach is growling hunger as the ticking grows quicker and louder and the sponsors of the war run commercials with only three minutes to go for mobile phone services and electronic superstore sales.

Every channel flipping for the war as though the world were converging into one hurculean symphonic burst of idiocy.

Under a minute to go! That crazy New Year's Baby can't wait for that ball to drop!


And then their "deadline" clock disappears, as though Christmas were cancelled, time is up! Where are the bombs? Where is the killing? Where is the freedom and the liberations?

They bungle around longer. You lose interest in their desperate attempts to create world events out of nothing. The dust of disappointment is everywhere. You become loud and obnoxious: tell the plants you don't care whether or not they grow, belittle the vegetables in the refrigerator for not being fresher, blame the ashtray for the lack of war.

In a terrifying gesture of ghoulish indifference, you begin to flip through the channels, hoping for a stand up comic or a decent Italian movie, anything but those wound-up little talking heads desperate to make something out of nothing.

And then, before you know it, peeking back again with reluctant hope, a few explosions begin, the excited chatter getting louder, speculations and gnawing confirmation as though the news anchors breathe relief, chanting that they told you so!

Hammurabi, the "criminal junior Bush" as Saddam likes to call him, makes his appearance, looking like waxed fruit with his starched, unimpressive rhetoric and his somber suit. "MurderDeathKill," he murmurs into the screen without conviction. "LiberateMurderDeathKill and FreedomMurderDeathKill," he states as the camera zooms away from the homey scene of the desk behind him crowded with pictures of his daughters and family to angle in on his face and you think to yourself: "Jesus Christ, Alfred E. Newman is declaring war!". But the "criminal junior Bush" is unimpressed. "Won't be easy MurderDeathKill, Reluctant MurderDeathKill but May God Bless MurderDeathKill"

Shortly thereafter, when it becomes apparent the bombing was like a reflexive twitch, not the full blown war we'd been promised all night, when the ex-General experts and correspondants from every sandy patch of Kuwait and the dime store doyens baffled themselves with their own inability to comprehend the motives of a teeny, tiny strike too far away for the remote cameras to see in detail, you begin to fall asleep, somehow, the anticlimax of the events like bad sex in your mouth, one nightmare after another as the television continued to blare subconsciously.

You wake again, shortly after a groggy midnight and there he is, rumors of his demise premature: Saddam, in a clean, neatly pressed military-style uniform and a black beret, giving a speech while wearing thick glasses and reading notes from a stenographer's pad, muttering outlandish threats of death and blood in a strange sort of elderly impotence, repeated exortations to everyone to draw their swords as though this were some sort of medieval battle to be fought on horses instead of sitting, miles underground, cowering from 100 billion dollars worth of precision-guided bombs.

Ugh. You finally shut it off, conscious of the growing feeling that all the while the networks and the viewers are becoming dealers and junkies, needing more and more with each subsequent injection, each telesthetic pang for more blood, more violence a call for higher advertising rates.

Later on, drenched in sweat and sickness, you crawl to the bathroom, recalling to yourself that in one day, as the war grows out of proportion, as the media circus gets louder and the death becomes more acute, in one day you will celebrate Bach's birthday with Cantata 46: Schauet doch und sehet.

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