Stranger in a strange land

Who knows what to believe nowadays? The news media is no help. There is too much fake news and too many alternative facts.

You say you don’t pay attention to news, but you still have to pay the rent. Whether you can do that, and the medical bills, while juggling the boss, friends and lovers, children and pets, properties and debts, determines your station in life.

Your best friends are pictures on a web page. Everyone is watching you either to make a buck off you or to harass you. You have a vague sense of helplessness, but you make an effort to know the world around you, even if there isn’t much you can do about it.

You vaguely recall a war being fought in Afghanistan for as long as you can remember. You see or read very little about this war. There are no news pictures of women on fire fleeing a napalm attack like during the other long war your grandfather fought in Vietnam. Do you know who the Taliban is? Or where Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra, Daesh, ISIS, or these other strangely-named, violent enemies we are fighting are? Are you sure? Who told you? Where is this Afghanistan? Why are we killing and being killed in this strange country full of opium and honor killing and bearded men with automatic rifles? Do you care?

Static and white noise surround us. Symbols coalesce and emerge suddenly, triggering emotional responses. Micro aggression is everywhere.

But who is projecting the symbols we react to? Someone, we are told, is going to take away something precious—our health care or our guns or maybe our children.

You are urged to call people, to come to rallies, to buy a book or donate money. Do you really believe that will be effective? Are you sure that those you listen to for answers don’t have other agendas?

Somehow you have to choose sides. You can try to avoid the hard choices, but avoidance can’t shield you because you are still connected to the matrix. Try to move off the grid. How far off do you dare go? Most people wind up just trying to skate by, hoping the matrix won’t suddenly jump out at them, not knowing exactly what to do if it does.

This is our life in the wealthiest declining empire in history.

In the Persian Gulf, a U.S. Navy boat fires shots at a startled Persian ship that resents our presence in their waters. A chubby Asian man is firing missiles into the air. Even though one of our Trident submarines can blow his country off the map from a thousand miles away, we are told he will soon attack Los Angeles, or maybe Honolulu.

All options, we are assured, are on the table.

One news channel says nice things about Russia, while almost every other one constantly says very bad things about Russia. But that channel that is nice to Russia always says very nasty things about Iran. What is going on? Who is the chessmaster?

We are the greatest country in history that argues incessantly over transsexuals in the army and in our bathrooms.

We were just checkmated in tiny Syria by troops and militias a fraction of the size of our bloated military. Leaders say we have the world’s greatest military, no one even comes close, but we haven’t won a war against anyone larger than Rhode Island since 1945. Maybe we didn’t really win that war, either. Or simply lost the peace.

Make America great again. Food on the table, gas in the car, entertaining things to do. What else is there?