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Snapshots of Hope, Part Four: The American Shabbiness

The age of American Power seems to be over. We have entered the age of American Shabbiness.

Braxton Marnus

I was on Mescaline the night the first Gulf War opened. Missiles famously wound around corners and burst through doors in the same cheap camera green that recently showed Paris Hilton getting laid, and my friend’s mom came down the stairs crying. She offered him valium. She was not a “cool” mom. She did not know we were on mescaline. We did not know a war had started.

A couple of years before that moment created by cable news, the Berlin Wall was cancelled. It was a spin-off of the even older show, the Cold War. TV had to do something. Victory was not so exciting anymore.

It was easy to believe in conspiracy theories in those days. It was easy to fear American power. I was not surprised that the NSA was listening to people’s calls. In my youth, I assumed they were listening to my calls. Several times, I thought the CIA was on the roof of my house. Eventually, I believed that they got my dentist to put thought-reading implants into my teeth.

I no longer believe such things. Y2K never came. But, eleven months later, the glitches were played out in a shabby election. Then we were attacked by a stateless mad villain with box-cutters. James Bond could not catch him. When we invaded Afghanistan, he must have felt like he was watching Hitler follow in the footsteps of Napoleon. Then we did him one better and went into Iraq. I thought they could read my thoughts. Turned out they couldn’t even read the e-mails telling them about an imminent attack on 9/11.

When Katrina hit, we could not save our city. Hezbollah has done a better job rebuilding Beruit. Hezbollah, for fuck’s sake. We did not save our city. We produce nothing. We live on home equity. We are still In Iraq. We still have not caught the villain. Our military tortures—perhaps it always has, but now it gets caught in the stupidest ways. It passes around sadistic cell-phone photos as souvenirs. The CIA is charged with crimes in Europe. We cannot take care of the war veterans. At Walter Reed, rats impersonate doctors to steal drugs and mack on the nurses. Everybody knows the Bush administration is incompetent, but they still beat everyone else. They would be almost as ridiculous as our revolutionaries, except that they still manage to win. And we just hit 17th out of 22 industrialized nations on the so called “national report card.” High school students struggle to read and teachers struggle to teach them. No Child Left Behind holds teachers to standards that the rest of the government cannot even meet.

The age of American Power seems to be over. We have entered the age of American Shabbiness. Am I scared that the CIA or the NSA may be listening now? Sure, but only because they may allow my records to be stolen by some clever hackers or identity thieves in Uzbekistan or Northern Ontario. We don’t fear the government’s power anymore, but its weakness. Big government ineffectualness has been bedded by small government indifference: 2007 is the offspring.

Decline is better perhaps than collapse.

A cause for hope?

Braxton Marnus could very well be teaching your children how to read.