Like it or not, we need to talk about how bad things could get. As a friend of mine put it, if we think back to the way it was a year ago, we couldn't have imagined it would get so much worse than it was then. And a year before that, same thing. Every year (almost every month) that goes by brings a new layer to the horror and chaos. If you think I'm being overly dramatic, just remember the smugness, the machismo, the cheap gimmickry that accompanied the first few months of the war in Iraq. That card deck of the 52 most evil Iraqis. "Shock and Awe." Bush all pimped out in his Tom Cruise costume. Now where are we? Now who's shocked and awed?
It's neither responsible, wise nor safe to assume that this--as things stand in February 2007--is the worst it can be, not as long as these same manipulative hucksters have control of the joy stick. We must consider the possibility that there is no limit to how far down they can drag us. We must consider the possibility of it being twice as bad in another year ... that it will continue to befoul our hands and hearts at a geometrically expanding rate until America, our America, is irreparably damaged.
But first, don't you think I deserve a little appreciation for not once commenting on what embarrassing spectacles you made of yourselves over that silly football game?
Yes, of course, I'm talking about the Fiesta Bowl. And I'm talking to the people of Boise and adjacent areas. It's one thing when sports fans in Chicago or Pittsburgh or someplace far away behave like a tribe of howler monkeys on a fermented banana binge, but to see it up close, from people I may be passing on the street or sharing a urinal with ... why, it made my skin crawl, I tell you. It convinced me the end of the world will come not with a bang or a whimper, but with the incessant chatter of sports groupies, deluding themselves into believing they actually are No. 1.
But did I say anything? I mean, I'm saying it now, true--now that you've had time to catch your breath and compose yourselves. But then--when people who, as a rule, seemed to have no passions worth penning a letter to a newspaper over were suddenly flooding the editorial page with such pith and poetry as "Go Broncos!"--when boosters were actually using the victory as evidence that God Himself favors BSU's pampered athletes over another school's pampered athletes--when every newscaster on the local market was gushing about all that attention we were getting--did I poop on your party?
No, I didn't. And believe me, it's not because I still don't believe the obsession with football is a tragic brain-wasting disorder, eating away at the higher functions of those afflicted like weevils in a bowl of Quaker Oats. I kept my mouth shut, in small part, because, well ... it was a pretty amazing game ... but mostly because I can sympathize.
That's right, Fools for Football, I sympathize with the compulsion to divert yourselves with meaningless and trivial interests. I understand, because I've been doing it, myself. A lot, of late. Some days, I do so many Sudoku puzzles, I dream in numbers. And what's worse, even here on the pages of Boise Weekly, I have been pushing the unpleasantness aside. Out of sight, out of mind. Discriminating readers will notice that it's been weeks, months, since I addressed our nation's No. 1 Problem from any but the most oblique of angles. Even as Bush nudges us ever deeper into that briar patch, I have written of almost nothing but meaningless and trivial interests. Christmas parades. A lost pocket knife. Celebrity feuds. Red. Myself.
So, you bet, I understand how people can allow themselves to be absorbed, medicated, lulled by such things as football. American Idol. Who's up for an Oscar or Steve Jobs' newest gee-gaw. It's because the big thing, the main thing, the horrible thing these hucksters have gotten us into is so huge, so endless, so awful, that it's almost impossible to grasp, isn't it? Most of us have accepted that it's too complicated and broken for anything good to come of it, and rather than dwell on the infinity of negative possible outcomes, it's only natural we turn away and occupy our minds with something that takes no effort to understand. Something we can win at. Silly games.
But if we can so blithely tune out the harsh realities when things are this bad, what's it going to be like if things turn much worse? And if you don't believe things can get any worse, follow me down the path of speculation for a few steps, and then tell me you don't believe it can possibly happen.
Bush and Ahmadinejad keep rattling around like two loose lug nuts on the same tire until, sooner or later, some Iranian soldiers shoot at some American soldiers. That's all the excuse Bush needs to bomb the piss out of the Persians, which is all the excuse Ahmadinejad needs to send his half-million-man army into Iraq. There are not enough American troops to stop them, especially when the Iraqi military decides they'd rather side with their fellow Shiites than us. Our guys end up being fired on from the front by Russian Kalishnikovs and from behind by weaponry we supplied the Iraqis. Bush keeps bombing, but they keep coming. There are no reinforcements to send in since they're all there already. Bush insists he has no choice and orders the use of tactical nuclear weapons on the advancing Iranians. All the civilized nations on the planet, plus most of the uncivilized ones, come to consider us a land of criminals. Not even Tony Blair will talk to us anymore. The entire Arab world is committed to our destruction. Gas prices go so high, even Prius drivers can't afford it. Syria's army masses on Iraq's western border. Saudi Arabia's army masses on Iraq's southern border. The military draft is reinstated because our armed forces are in such a shambles. Your daughter gets called up. Canada's army masses on our northern border to stem the flow of young Americans dodging conscription. Our economy turns so sour, even workers in New Delhi get pink slips. Bush supporters keep hoping there's some spectacular maneuver to be made--a Hail Mary pass, a Statue of Liberty play, a surprise lateral to a new field commander--that will get us out of this. But no. It's not a game.
Pretty grim. And I'm not insisting it'll happen like that. But at the least, we'd better ask ourselves which is more likely ... the future I just described. Or one in which everything turns out just fine in Iraq.