felling the ugly vibes at Liberal Street Fighter
Mondays … as the tension ramps up in the American air, Mondays seem particularly fraught with the possibilities of conflict. There is so much palpable tension in the air. Anger. Fear. The sense that things have swung completely out of control. Buses filling up after years of furious neglect, as angry can-you-believe-these-gas-prices drivers used to their comfy rides carry all of their stuff onto buses already full of the elderly, the frugal, the poor and, worse of all, heedless kids on their way to school. Toes are crushed, bags hit heads, people fall onto each other and the high schoolers hoot and yell and flirt and deride.
It reminds me of the feeling I used to get when I was a very young child living out in farm country in Iowa, when the bad thunderstorms were blowing in. The horizon would turn a sickly yellow, the air felt a sickly green. You could taste the ozone on the air, the hair on your head standing up. Everything got quiet, except for the wind, which was starting to howl. Everyone up, out, down into the storm cellar. Light the Coleman lantern, light some candles … wait …
… The smell of ozone getting stronger, mixing with the musky dirt smell of a farmhouse’s root celler. Is today the day a finger comes down from the clouds? Is this the day chaos comes to call?
This it feels is daily life in America, an America that ignores the bodies laying in the sand, that can’t look away from bodies floating in the streets of New Orleans. This is twenty-first Century America, with none of the flying cars I imagined would be here by today, (but we do have the Kirk-like communicators, though they are much more of a nuisance than they looked like on Star Trek). A time we looked forward to in anticipation has become a time filled with an air of menace, of hopelessness, of impending urban unrest and low-intensity civil war.
Haunted by financial pressures, the pressures from stressful workplaces, shredded safety nets, non-existent or unaffordable healthcare, children learning little in schools we’ve turned into factories whose sole purpose is to produce workers, not citizens — this is our country today. The stink of failure and lost possibilities permeates everything. Hopeful Americans are more and more turning out to protest, getting involved, writing letters … yet come Monday, after the infotainment spokesmodels have ignored the citizenry yet again in favor of spin and photo-ops, the sense of hopelessness swells.
Maybe I’m just projecting. Maybe it’s just me. I have had to choke down anger since I was a kid, and today a heedless kid-in-the-body-of-a-grown-man was goofing, not holding on, and he stepped down hard on my shin when the bus stopped short. If I’d been smaller, or older, or a woman w/ more delicate bones, he could very well have broken my leg. The urge to stand up and punch him was almost overwhelming. I nearly gave in when he stepped on me again when I tried to get out at my stop. So maybe it’s just me projecting, my shin still throbbing, the hot coffee finally drying on my thigh. Maybe it’s just me projecting my own anger, but it feels increasingly that more and more of us are crammed onto underfunded and overcrowded buses, forced to compete with each other, forced to … swallow our anger.
Swallow it, until that day when a finger reaches down from a cloud, or up from the sea, or across the median, or in the form of a pink slip or the swing of a policeman’s baton, until that day that chaos comes to call.
Twenty-first century America, still life, painted in shades of black.