May 21, 2013
Coming of Rage in Neverland
Posted on May 12, 2011
By Mr. Fish
Upon hearing the news that Osama bin Laden had been made to swim with the fishes after taking a bullet to the head, I couldn’t help myself from thinking of the Mafia. The news came to me and a room full of journalists and activists and moneyed liberals during a fairly swank fundraiser at Disney Hall in L.A., probably just as I was being served a crème fraîche garnished by a sprig of mint and dusted with gold infused cocoa talc by servers who, as evidenced by their behavior, had no doubt been instructed not to speak and to remain as invisible as pixies servicing saints. Sickened by the elation on the faces of many of those seated around me at my table, as if the killing was somehow proof that Barack Obama had seen some sort of spooky justice served by targeted assassination and that his re-election would be both a cinch and well-deserved, I set down my fork and looked beyond the ostentation and noticed an airplane moving like a lit match across the black sky outside.
I thought back to the first week of October 2001 and remembered how peculiar I felt lying in bed with my wife in a Boston hotel room on the 26th floor with all the lights out, both of us feeling as vulnerable to targeted assassination by airbus as everybody else in America, the whole of Western civilization having been turned into an elaborate pretension of precarious and brittle dominoes by the 9/11 attacks. It was somewhere around 7 o’clock and our curtains were open to the great purple bruise of twilight, and we were listening to a radio program broadcasting original audio from a videotape that had just been released by Osama bin Laden. First, bin Laden would speak, his Arabic muffled as if spoken through a loaf of bread and then recorded by the crappiest Sanyo answering machine known to man, and then a translator would repeat the al-Qaida leader’s words in a tone better suited to the wide-eyed, flashlight-under-the-chin, retelling of a ghost story.
Most disturbing about bin Laden’s message, bat-shit crazy adherence to a voodoo-addled theocratic justification for mass murder aside, was how closely his disdain for U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East mirrored my own, particularly when it came to Washington’s megalomaniacal support of Israel’s merciless occupation and savage mistreatment of Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank. Then there were the bombings by the Clinton administration of Sudan and Afghanistan and the harrowing sanctions, and occasional missile attacks, against the utterly defenseless Iraqi population. And then there was the construction of all the military bases in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Turkey, Yemen, Kuwait, Cyprus, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Afghanistan. It pissed me off that the refusal of my own government to espouse humanitarian concerns for those it so unjustly threatened and brutalized had me reluctantly agreeing with a top-notch crackpot who would have no problem watching while his thugs sawed off my head with a sharp, prehistoric stone because his fucking Santa Claus found my atheism naughty. Worse than that, even, was what I imagined bin Laden’s qualifying the United States as an imperial power would do to the West’s likelihood that it would re-evaluate its hegemonic tendencies and hubristic sense of global privilege. Knowing what Hitler had done to the complete eradication of the square mustache, I could only guess what bin Laden was doing to U.S. introspection.
With practically everybody behaving as if the world had suddenly been made lighter by the elimination of one man murdered at home in his nightgown, I left Disney Hall with the words, “There’s no place like Rome, there’s no place like Rome. …” circling my mood like children dancing around a maypole, the pagan origins of their synchronized movement giving purpose to their muscles while simultaneously stirring nothing but optimism inside the absurdity of their pointless joy.
Mr. Fish’s “Go Fish: How to Win Contempt and Influence People” (Akashic Books), a volume of his political cartoons and original essays, will be published this summer. Click here to pre-order.
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