Special 2004 Election Collectors' Issue
Break the spirit
and the body will die.
I put my mind on baseball last week and for the first time in my life I’m interested in sports. But soon the sports world will be geared into the football season.... This is not the year to foster an interest in football. Football seems to me the rodeo clown of war, and for that it might be worth noting that Bush is openly uninterested in football.
Christ, where do I even start? There’s no shortage of fear or anger or greed to write about today, the problem is there’s just too much to write about in detail. For the last four years, bad news has been coming down in fearful bursts like a slow grim staccato, and it’s gaining tempo with the election nearly a week away.
There’s a comedian holding journalists responsible on their own turf, which is great, but fucking hell, it’s come to that! And weeks before, arguably the most inarticulate, unintelligent, clumsy, delusional man in the public eye had the balls to ridicule his opponent’s argument in a nationally televised public debate on the sole basis that his opponent cited leading news organizations, but for some reason he wasn’t laughed out of office (yet). And this is just the stuff I hook my brain on to distract myself from how bad things really are… because the really big, ugly issues are too deep and numerous to tackle here on this page. Britney Spears used to be a distraction; now no one gives two shits because Republicans are throwing out Democratic voter registration papers by the box-load, and honest kids who were swindled in ’69 are whoring their honor to the same huckster bastards who drank their blood thirty years ago in lavish bomb shelters and fucked their young Penelopes on a pile of money generations old, and somehow—after every violation of human rights and personal liberty the administration has endorsed against innocents—even against innocents in their own land—it’s still just accepted knowledge that the terrorists hate us because we’re free… There’s too much and it all hurts.
I’m pretty rapidly reaching the point where I won’t want to care about any of this… that’s a heartbreaking place to be. It happens sometimes, and it’s hardly ever permanent even when it’s totally honest and true. But it makes writing a cogent piece for a publication like this totally impossible, because it means somewhere down the page, after failing to elbow out my place in a clusterfuck of rage, I’m going to give up the ghost and write “10 tips for a safe and fun Halloween.” So it’s absolutely imperative—for your sake, gentle reader, and mine and for the sake of mighty Pipe Up—to find some perspective for all this ugliness.
There’s a method in torture of breaking a person’s will by arousing pain in several areas of the body at once. It just becomes too much for the brain to handle, so the fuses get blown and your spirit goes dark. A similar thing happens to soldiers in war—we call it shell-shock, the Nordic called it the Faye (relating to mortals doomed and helpless in a realm of menacing spirits). In Latin America, there’s a more domestic social condition called “susto” meaning fright sickness or “soul loss.” According to http://informationguide.info:
To think of this as a quaint superstition is dangerous because untreated subjects never recover, and extreme cases (“espanto”) are fatal. To think it isn’t a growing epidemic here in our fair states is just as foolish. So what’s the treatment, doc? What do you do when the drugs wear off and your senses are still dragging like a skeleton crew? Why, a ritual. With family members and friends, and a curandero, with rosemary and sage and an egg and prayers and chants and a cross lined with aluminum.... And what happens is, the patient gathers these people around and recounts the details of the events that caused the soul’s departure.
So we’re back where we started. Of course that’s the solution. America’s soul has left her; of course we fucking need to talk about what happened. Everyone does. Even you Colin Powell, even you John McCain, even you Mary Cheney. It’s your soul too, and if you don’t say what happened to you it will never come back.
Boston in four.
Alex Marino is a writer and improviser who lives in Brooklyn and performs with Jenny.