Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Science fiction dream

All right, gang. Here's the dream that flashed through me head last night. More accurately, it's a crude pencil sketch of a dream I dimly remember. The outlines. The blurry afterimage turning to dead whiteness in the light of day.

There's a man. Or someone who used to be a man. He's sent back into the past with a mission. It's not clear if he's actually going back into time or merely changing people's memories. This may be reality; it may be virtual reality. It isn't spelled out.

Whoever he is. Whatever he's doing. Whoever's in charge ...

In comes down to the same thing.

He makes the crooked paths straight. He unlocks the doors.

He sets frustrated artists on the right path, as opposed to the paths they took that fucked up their careers. He finds lovers who murdered each other and rewinds their lives to the exact word that started the fight that led to blood, and then unspeaks that word. He re-edits the life-or-death moments of parents when the right eye contact or precise nod of understanding tilts the balance between one day of suicide and many days of freedom for their child. He nudges, he whispers, he hints, he shapes.

He turns death into life.

And, yes, that sounds like Mr. Jesus Christ. But our hero isn't Jesus Christ. His motives are good, but they aren't entirely unselfish and pure.

Someone, something, it isn't clear -- aliens? angels? -- made him a promise.

Let's spell it out, OK?

There's a quid pro quo. There's a deal.

If our hero Photoshops the past, in exchange, they'll give him a future.

They'll give him a world he can shape to his own imagining.

His own future.

A blank slate.

Yeah. You know what I'm talking about.

Tohu wa bohu.

Exactly. An emptiness of pure potentiality he can make his own. Not in the sense of sweeping up road apples and broken glass and gluing and mending and patching the fragments of centuries and centuries of fuck-ups until it seems like something more-or-less OK, OK? Something new.

He won't be editing. He won't be patching.

He'll be creating something new.

Like, for want of a better term, God.

That's the deal.

And that, my friends, is the reason our hero has endured thousands and thousands of year of shit. Years and years and years of losers and whiners and liars. Of walking corpses who don't appreciate the fact they're breathing. Of chucklehead fuckers who assume they can can stumble through life and phone in their parts and fuck up every possible moment of grace because, like Superman, like Underdog, at the last possible moment, a Savior will appear and turn their F- into an A+.

He is that Savior.

You think it's fun? You think it's easy?

Yeah, you may think being the Savior is a simple matter of changing grades on report cards. It's not like that. Each life is a string of moments. To change even one life, you have to get into those moments. One at a time. From beginning to end. And you can't speed it up. No. You know what it's like when some boring motherfucker is telling you about the taxi ride from the airport in Berlin that went to the wrong place and you don't fucking care? It's like that. You have to listen to the asshole, listen very carefully. Again and again. Each word, each inflection. Again and again. You have to listen. And then listen to every possible permutation of the same conversation. Again and again and again and again. You have to listen very carefully. Then, after many centuries, when you finally understand, you go back to the airport, back to the exact moment when everything went wrong, then make him take the right taxi. That's what he does.

Again and again.

He's the Savior. It's a shitty job.

And, as you've probably already guessed ...

The angels or the aliens or somebody are fucking him over.

Up in the clouds or dimension X-N, they're watching him. Shining beings, but bastards nonetheless. They're using him. That's what they do.

One of them says ...

"We're fucking him over."

"Yeah, I know," says the other one.

"We get what we want. He goes through centuries and centuries of shit. And he doesn't get shit. He's not going to get his glorious future."

"No he's not," says the other one. After a long pause, the shining bastard says: "I think he knows."

He knows.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

War, hugghhh

Apparently, we're still fighting in Afghanistan. No, seriously. We are. How freaking bizarre. It's like The Simpsons. You figure the show would've been cancelled a long time ago. But no. It just keeps going on and on.

War's a lot like a bad relationship. Lot easier getting into one than getting out.

Today, Obama's trying to get out of Afghanistan.

It ain't that easy.

Obama is basically in the position of Nixon in 1969.

History, like Fate, is not without a sense of irony.

Here’s a little history:

Starting January 20, 1969, President Nixon inherited Lyndon Johnson's war in Vietnam. As some of you may know, Nixon sailed into office with the promise of a “secret plan” to end that war. Yeah, right. Short of nuking North Vietnam, there was no way to end the Vietnam War. The VC wanted us out – and most of the Vietnamese people agreed. The VC had a supply chain from the Soviet Union and China. They were more willing to die than we were. We could fight forever. But we couldn’t win.

Hey, that didn’t mean we had to lose.

The Vietnam war wasn’t exactly unwinable. It wasn’t exactly a war. If America had said, "This is a police action. We're the planetary cops. We'll send our troops to get killed -- forever," the South Vietnamese government would probably still be going strong. But Nixon knew the commitment of the American people wasn't infinite. America was willing to shed blood. But not forever, as various riots and demonstrations had proved. So, Nixon -- and his advisors -- came up with a crackerjack idea called Vietnamization.

Which was a fancy way of saying: “Our war. Is now your war. See you later.”

Nixon’s secret plan amounted to a hand-off.

Strictly speaking: We bomb the crap out of Cambodia and North Vietnam. While the VC is picking its ass off the ground, we hand the war to South Vietnam – and split.

Cynics have suggested Nixon being Nixon, QED, Vietnamization was a scam from the gitgo. I don’t think so.

And, yeah, I know that Nixon is on the record that, “I will not be the first goddamn American President to lose a goddamn war.” No, he didn’t. But I think there’s more to it than that.

Nixon being Nixon, didn’t want to lose.

I think Nixon’s reasoning was: We’re propping up a corrupt government. The South Vietnamese won’t clean up its act because they know Uncle Sam sweeps up their road apples. On the other hand, if they know we’re definitely gone, Nguyen Cao Ky and his cronies just might step up to the plate. Challenge and response. Shit or get off the pot. I’ll take the fucking gamble.

Nixon’s only other choice was:

A) A forever war.

B) Telling the American people, “The Vietnam War was a bad idea. Yeah, I know I told you I had a secret plan, but that’s bullshit. We can’t win. We’re withdrawing all our troops now.”

Vietnamization was a gamble. Nixon lost. We assume it’s a historical inevitability. But maybe not.

Today, Obama is in the same position.

Like South Vietnam, the current Afghanistan government is a malignant, festering mass of corruption. Screw the rule of law. It’s all about the payoff today! They can afford to screw around – because they know Uncle Sam will sweep up their road apples. Like the South Vietnamese, they figure we need them, and will pay any price to keep them in power.

The corruption of the Hamid Karzai government is the fuel that keeps the resurgent Taliban going. But that corruption depends on the assumption of infinite American support. Like Nixon, Obama demolishes that assumption.

Obama says, “We’re leaving in ten months.” That tells Karzai and his cronies they can’t rely on us forever. Either they clean up their act. Or they’re screwed.

Obama's gamble is Nixon’s gamble. It has nothing to do with domestic politics.

Other than the fact that Obama knows the American people won't keep sending our troops to die forever in a war we can't win.

If McCain was President, he'd be in the same position.