Creative Works

Like Screech Owls at Noonday

I will never forget the night back in 1995 when I woke up breathless as the ground rumbled beneath a column of tank treads. All the sway of the earth shook like a thing unfirm. In a state of terrified paralysis, I couldn’t even scream. I shook convulsively as something like an animal growl ravaged my vocal cords. The Marine I was with at an Observation Post held me down and kept me from running pell-mell into the dark forest. Above the tanks’ portentous din, he reassured me: the AmTrac AAVs were not driving over our hidden foxhole; we were safe–unlike another Marine, who had been accidentally crushed dead in a previous training exercise. That was a good adventure.

Today I found it interesting to see the news at my local gym. Since television news beams down upon us at the cardio section, I was subjected to a lot of hoopla about innocent Ukraine and diabolical Putin. Even a jocular Rebecca Solnit has entered the frenzy, transforming herself into a fiery hawk of war; now, she is a cheerleader who curates a stream of bellicose content from her braindead megaphone. And then there’s all the rest, like screech owls at noonday they all are. Martial spirit infuses their speech. And then War winds its great horn; his hot breath passes through their fluted bone-houses, those Hollow Men, as when the brute panpiper, eyes flared red and wanton, blows hard upon his instrument to animate the hapless maiden: to what end only Hell knows.

This is how you manufacture consent: today’s tepid “why can’t we do more” may well simmer into a freakish bipartisan declaration of war.

What is forgotten is that most of these people who now speak with irrational exuberance for war are totally unfit for military service. Verily, they are too old, like most Senators, or that Faustian octogenarian who heads NIAID. And as for the rest of us of military age? Many Americans have been rendered unfit because of obesity and other diseases of affluence over the last forty years under the watchful eye of Fauci. But I digress.

The same war hawks who suddenly found their courage today are the same chicken littles who yesterday were triggered by everything from unintentional microaggressions to Trump’s visage; those who huddled in fear behind masks, flinched at coughs and sneezes, and besought inept governments to deliver them from a so-called zombie pandemic of the un-vaccinated are the same people who spent the last several years in a kind of mass psychosis that ought to bring to one’s mind McCarthy’s Red Scare, Mao’s Cultural Revolution, the Witch Craze of the 14th to 17th centuries. Let us add 2020-2021, whatever it shall be called, to the list.

Few Americans today remember such history, let alone the history of war, from their days in school, and fewer still have been schooled in the art of war. If they did or had been, then the August Madness, or “The Spirit of 1914,” would give them pause. Enthusiasm for war then, as it is now, was strongest among the elites and middle-class of urban centers of progress.

Here we are now afloat on such a full sea: beware the Ides of March, for those who have eyes shall see what is to be seen, and what is to be heard shall be by those with ears to hear. Even so, the Black Emperors will march sightless, blind and well-wrapped up more proudly than ever before; and shivering in the cold and blundering forth, he’ll croak out, it is what it is–i.e., this is it and there is nothing more but Night’s Plutonian Shore.


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