An Open Letter From NYC – Mitchel Cohen
Greetings from Brooklyn, New York, this little corner of the world.
The bones of September have barely been exhumed, and new crises are already punching through the once hum-drum droppings of everyday life. Flying in an airplane; attending antiwar protests; wearing darker skin; praying to an unsanctioned God facing the wrong direction; even opening a letter -- all are filled with trepidation.
The pervasive anxiousness is all-too-real. As Allen Ginsberg once wrote: “We hug and kiss the United States under our bedsheets the United States that coughs all night and won’t let us sleep.” There is a sense, not fully articulated, that at least some of the pervasive hysteria is being orchestrated, that our emotions are being manipulated, and that somewhere deep down a noisy little ulcer gnaws that this all may have something to do with Terrorism with a capital T, yes, but it also has something to do with Oil, with Pipeline, with Colony.
Aladdin’s lamps are exploding all at once, and Papa Bush’s genetically engineered genies sweep down our chimneys at night when we are sleeping, jangling keys to apocalyptic dungeons lined with TV screens, we don’t know why, and we don’t have time to think about it as the next crisis is announced and is upon us just as earlier ones recede, wave after wave from sea to shining sea.
We are exhorted by mouths white with foam: “Support America. Go shopping.”
We purchase millions of American flags made in sweatshops in China to express our unity (and, for some, to say “Don’t hit me, I’m a good guy too, not one of THEM”). We should be taking the opportunity to break off and think about who is stampeding us into returning to the routines we despised but which are now romantacized as “the good old days.”
Peace is not a noun meaning the absence of war; it is a verb: “To Peace”. To live as though the oneness is real (despite all the doubters, despite one’s own doubts!). To live as though we still have rights. To understand that all soil is sacred even as the gaping anthraxial wound swallows up the biggest filing cabinets mankind has constructed - Manhattan’s two front teeth - and we wait for some tooth fairy to exchange them for a quarter left under the pillow, this Autumn of our abandoned childhood.
How is it that the death count keeps getting less at Ground Zero - the Washington Post has exhaustively tallied it at around half of what the Mayor had been claiming, and getting smaller! - and is getting higher, higher at someone else’s Ground Zero the other side of the world?
Is there a huge transfer of bodies through the dark channels of earth, some insane transmigration of souls from the spiritual desert of Wall Street to Afghanistan’s flat earthly sands?
Beyond right and wrong,
beyond the political struggle to stop this bastard bombardment,
beyond this and that, the harrowing dig through centuries of rubble to pull out real human lives;
beyond the tarpits of civilization,
we charge through life like wounded Tyranasaurs fired up by avenging angels named General Electric and Lockheed and Boeing and Unocal, makers of BOTH SIDES’ instruments, their awful machinery of holocausts.
We are oblivious to - or, if not oblivious, pushing aside - the thought that we sit at the edge of world war three about to extinct ourselves in Ginsberg’s hydrogen jukebox in a place called Pakistan, called India, to see in whose God we trust the most, the one with the accurate Timex watch, cell phone, dialysis machine, and patch over one-eye slaughtering the lambs, or the accountant bookkeeper of capital with knotted white hair whose only prophets are profits, measuring abysmal teaspoons of justice for every abyssful of his believers’ tortured souls.
Said Camus: I wish I could love Justice and still love my country.
We live in my country Tisofthee somewhere amidst the stars. Bush’s stolen election has put the whole world out of whack, threw us into a parallel universe that wasn’t supposed to be, and everything that has transpired since - the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gloria’s cancer and death, the stolen dreams of real democracy - pile jumbled on the ocean floor as the earth heats up, the seas rise around us, and, like the World Trade Center, swallow us whole.