Terror at the Cinema

This essay was originally published on The State.

by Adam Rothstein

photo via Geograph.uk

Another uptown, suburban tragedy. Another list of white people who all died at the same time. Another day of America dying a little inside.

It is a society engaged in its own suicidal death spiral, that attacks itself in existential crisis. Like an alcoholic throwing bottles at his/her loved ones rather than cease to drink their contents, the United States self-flagellates mercilessly, increasing the pain by way of attempts at metaphysical cure.

We drive the pain deep into our flesh. Ban the drugs, ban the books, and ban the guns. Imprison the Mexicans! Burn the Muslims! Lynch the Blacks! Light a fire so large, that the conflagration will sweep the surface of the earth, burning addiction, violence, and terror, and all of us. We’ve got this agenda, and we know who to blame. Build the prison walls, and on the top, place the head of our culture. Soak us in gasoline, attain the lotus position, and light fuse, to seek eternal and just peace.

Masochists get a bad reputation in such times. The privacy of vampire fan-fiction and a short length of poly rope tied to the frame of an IKEA futon are this generation’s peace symbol, compared to reality of drone strikes, waterboarding, and the sequel-ready 120 Days of Abu Graib. We mock those experimenting with friction and fiction, and applaud the booted and uniformed, as they run their hands down the inseam of the people. We preach against homosexuality, and let a drop of drool escape our lips as we send more young people to be raped in prison.

photo via BigAmericanNight.com

What’s the Fourth Amendment? The First? The Sixth, the Seventh, and the Eighth? Take the Second as well. Read them while you can, before they become secret testimony. That the United States ever had a Bill of Rights will become information dangerous to National Security some time in the near future. Having an opinion will be the same as owning a firearm–both subject to restriction by the authorities we have asked to “please, for god’s sake, control us!” There is no price in freedom not worth paying, so that we can go see simulations of violence at a megaplex without ever having to see violence itself. Who would you narc on, to get a free large drink? How many days in solitary confinement would you do, if you could see a summer blockbuster a week early? How many years in Supermax if you could have a small speaking role in the film? Democracy in a free market nation-state no doubt follows the same rules as Kickstarter. Let the crowd source our notion of justice, and let the crowd reap its rewards.

You’re only the middle man, anyway; the greatest means, excuse and rationale that capital ever invented. The arm merely sells one of its fingers to the knife. You can get someone else to do the time for you. Hire an immigrant to take your risks, the way you hire them for the tasks no one else will do. Outsource the violence of society to someone with darker skin, who you never have to look in the eye. The casualties from your wars can believe a different religion than you, if only you have a connection at the source. You can even make a nice profit on the deal. Start a business in drugs, violence, and war–whether you are causing or preventing doesn’t matter. Supply and demand are the two sides of economics. It’s a fact.

So quoth America, sitting at a bar in a Holiday Inn by the airport, talking to whomever will listen after its fourth Jack and Coke. CNN plays in the background, Twitter posts from various brand names scrolling across face of reality. “Have you seen that new film that’s just come out? I loved the earlier version almost as much as the sequel. I’ve seen it once. I think I’ll probably see it again.”

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