Mental Exile

This election has been going on for thirty-two years now, ever since they wrote a script for the actor in the cowboy hat.



Somewhere in the Florida Everglades.

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 ACME bazooka. Meanwhile an old man in a jean jacket snaps 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. I close my eyes and 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 as he sought to rejuvenate his presidential bid… 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, statistics and sound bites flowing through some collective membrane while we sleep. Grown men talk about the threat of birth control and gay marriage and people take them seriously. I flip on the news and see war in everybody’s eyes. The fundamentalists want to invade the fundamentalists. Maybe 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.” I turn up the radio on a Persian pop track from ’74 and think about what this means. 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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Marjan – Kavir-e Del
from Pomegranates: Persian Pop, Funk, Folk and Psych of the 60s and 70s | buy vinyl
“We hope that Iranians around the world will rediscover these songs. This collection is, in some sense, dedicated to a generation in self-imposed mental exile, due to years of war and catastrophe; decades of lies and bombs; a fundamentalist theocracy of reformist shams; addiction; isolation and alienation; unemployment, and inflation.” More…