Mental Exile

They’ve got televisions in every damned restaurant these days. “It was my favorite swimsuit,” says a spokesmodel. “I felt sexy in it but confident.” A news anchor with aerodynamic hair looks me in the eye and says our passwords on the internet will be replaced by our retinas and heartbeats. “It might happen sooner than you think,” she says. I walk through large malls with nothing that I need. Somebody in North Dakota tells me I can buy my own drone for $300.

An old TV in the corner of the bar shows a cigar-chomping real estate developer paving a highway over Bugs Bunny’s rabbit hole. “You can either move out or we’ll blast ya out!” I wait for Bugs to pull out his bazooka while an old man hollers into his phone, “Just flip on your windshield wipers when it ain’t raining and you’ll see what I’m talking about.” This sounds profound, like a new way of looking at the world. Imagine the possibilities.

Whenever I look at the news I see lunatic sentences: He said the ‘secular left’ undermines American values established by the Founding Fathers… Or: I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute. This election has been going on for thirty-two years now, ever since they wrote a script for the actor in the cowboy hat. Each year they put more explosions in the screenplay, desperate to keep the audience in their seats.

I try to block out the political chatter but the information seeps into my head nonetheless, polling statistics and flubbed soundbites flowing through some collective membrane while we sleep. Grown men yell about the threat of birth control and gay marriage and people take this seriously. I flip on the news and see war in everybody’s eyes. The fundamentalists want to invade the fundamentalists. Perhaps it’s a good time for America to end. In 1917, Jacques Vaché argued that true protest required more than deserting a war or a nation. It demanded “desertion from within.” Tend my garden. Read more fiction. Cheer the end of nations. I’d like to visit Havana but my country won’t let me.

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