Standing at the Graves of Iraq
By Greg Moses
So much for the painted word, that quaint theory of visual art where everything is an attempt to speak. In the closing days of election USA, there is nothing real except fists and balls.
Sure, every song has its lyric and every movie its script, but if we look at the top culture icons assisting our presidential candidates in these final days of voting–Springsteen v. Schwarzenegger–we get a sense of how visceral we need to be.
And bin Laden–who is everything the Republicans once asked Willie Horton to be– speaks, they say, in moderated tones, with gentle gestures of hand. But who cares what or how he speaks? The image of bin Laden alive is enough to provoke a response. Listen to them holler: “The bastard is still alive!”
Forget also the wire that Bush wore during that debate. No doubt, it was only a conduit for words. Everyone agrees he spoke poorly anyway, just as everyone agrees that what he said doesn’t really matter anymore. How he “connected,” that’s what counts. His visceral–how did it feel pressed up against your visceral in a charged field of cyber-chemical reaction.
In fact, forget any connection that runs from spine to brain. The only connection that plays in the big-time these days runs between scrotum and gut. Why else would Kerry break a shotgun over his arm, dress in camouflage, and walk with dead geese in Ohio (Canadian geese no less).
“Happy wouldn’t quite be the word for it,” said a dutiful reporter Friday evening when asked how the Bush campaign is reacting to the bin Laden video. But how do you put words to the feeling you get when you realize that now again, you own the nation’s fears.
So if there is to be dialectic in the next few days, it will have to be located in a counter-visceral terrain, where we can recover our sickness about this mess–and fear not.
Excuse me for speaking briefly. News Friday carried an important bit of research suggesting that the Iraqi death rate doubled last year. That’s about 150,000 more funerals than normal. Women of Iraq have cried at gravesides twice as often as they did the year before. If their children, fathers, lovers, and sons did not all die directly as a result of smashing metal, then they died from distresses that a world of smashing metal brings.
If we could stand witness to 150,000 Iraqi funerals, we might find the sickness that we need. And in that sickness, we might recall caskets we ourselves have been commanded to forget. And so on (there is so much to be sick about). Compared to the fear that the fear mongers are whipping today, I feel that sickness is the healthier alternative for me.