Civilization by the fingernails

On Saturday afternoon, I wandered around by the river, followed some of the paths on the hillsides between the Mississippi and the east River Road. There is a waterfall in a steep limestone valley, where the road bends around, between Marshall and Summit avenues. The whole area is covered with trails up and down the hills, with outcroppings, micro canyons with cracked mud. Across, on the Minneapolis side, dudes were fishing. I walked up the River Road, past Marshall and into Minneapolis.

The crowd changes and everyone is wearing shaggier clothes, mysterious winos climb out of the park that has a boardwalk placed atop the river shore. I go further, towards the Melrose four-point megalithic student apartment complex. At least it complements the industrial plastic packaging facility next door, which has its own railroad car full of raw polymer goo—or whatever it was.

There are a lot of students moving things around today, and so it is yet again the time for comings and goings. I didn't go to graduation today because I felt stressed out about dealing with all the people, after all the weird stuff going on, and the various rifts that have formed around people at Macalester and the world as a whole. It is a shitty thing for my friends who are graduating, but I needed to get away for a little while and not hear anyone else's voice.

I have not written much here in a while, for the most part since finals started, and this last week of saying my seasonal goodbyes to friends that are winging it out of the Twin Cities for the summer. For some incalculable reason, Andy Tweeten has elected to ride out the national elections in Montana—until November—a sacrifice which only a hearty denizen of Big Sky like A. Henry could possibly handle. Apparently it is still snowing around there. Tell us when spring starts!! Then drink a six pack just in time to put your parka back on.

Arun Muthiah has also winged it to colder climes. He is in Australia somewhere, and might end up working at a swank hotel on the Gold Coast. This is much more pleasant in June and July than Oman. And yet will another country of white people really solve anything?

One of my professors is returning to Afghanistan this summer, and this is pretty exciting but ever so slightly alarming, because we all know how smoothly things work out over there.

There are a lot of people that are cycling home for a few weeks, until June, then coming around again, more than last year. That should be lots of fun.

In other news a couple friends are thinking of new ideas for websites and such. I am uncertain what might come of it, but I am happy to have a little time for such new ideas, if they can be prevented from sinking in that thick, crushing July haze, which this year promises to be thicker than usual...


What I'm trying to address is that the whole symbolic logic of the world is swinging around right in front of us now.

It's a heart of darkness revealed and a grandiose, expanding theater of horror, where one obscene image after another chases grainy beheadings through a rippling poppy field of raving militant ex-officers who want to crush everything.

The lunatics have their hands on all the levers of power and words don't fit together like they used to. In the summer, it is hard to keep thinking along the same lines as before.


After a huge thunderstorm blew through this week, I darted off to drive around with Arun and look at how the whole river valley, and all the buildings, were bathed in a golden light. There were only a handful of cars, and the sky roiled with soft, rippling clouds arcing behind the storm, dark and receding on the eastern horizon. The sun sliced golden through heavy, roiled evening air. I dodged around the fallen trees, tossed branches and garbage bins strewing the roads.

As we came around to the northwest side of downtown Minneapolis, the glass towers glinted as if made of shining limestone under the dark sky. We drove into downtown, then along the Lake of the Isles as the sun finally came down. Minneapolitans were impressed, taking pictures. (I had no camera).

Finally, after the sun set, a chocolate ice cream cone at Sebastian Joe's, where I used to go when I was very little, living in Minneapolis. As we stood outside a man talked with his inaudible friend in a green compact.

"How are can we say we're liberating the people when we're killing them? Sixty percent of the people in that prison were innocent. How is that freedom?"

All my cynicism has been repaid a thousandfold, but is it gratifying?

Hahaaa, the war is a shameful disaster, as I suspected! What a bunch of cretins, now they've been laid low!!! Moral superiority r00t3d!! [Dance on ashes]

What a horrible idea. This turn of events does not bring me much gratification. Rumsfeld is an evil man, plain to see for all, now. At least things like that have been made clear.

So make no mistake, please. I am filled with anger and confusion about these turns of events. I am shamed that all the little kids in this country have to face these pictures of sexual humiliation, where my generation got the cracking of Berlin Wall, and those in between just had the dirty Clinton stuff.

This whole field of torture, this surreal complex of shame and sadomasochism was supposedly carried out by a half-dozen mountain hayseeds. No, As Sy Hersh peels back a third layer on the Onion of Hell, he says that a special operation was tasked with coercing War on Terror targets with a number of techniques, including sexual humiliation (and perhaps blackmail tied to the photos).

I had my suspicions. When I posted a link to this report on the suspicious deaths of Afghan prisoners from the Guardian last March, it felt oddly out of place with the narrative they gave us. Now it looks like one of the first icebergs spotted.

This whole stream has set off a 'logik bomb' in American identity, while already parts of Washington are trying to steam along again, and the rest of the world looks on with puzzlement and fear.

I went wandering around because the symbolic logic that underpins American 'moral authority,' hegemony, soft power, whatever you want to call the attractive force that binds together a system of rule, all of it has been supercharged by the flipping images and dozens of deaths—of poor Iraqi Shiites, a huge chunk of the population—spilling out, hitting holy sites, setting one Iraqi against another.

It seems that the environment of torture spilled out of the norms created by the Bush administration's War on Terror policies, as desperation and a failure of intelligence last year led the army to start abusing Iraqi they picked up for intelligence tidbits. The confusion of ends and goals spirals ever further, eroding our very ability to deal with reality.

Fortunately, everyone wants to get plastic surgery now, as the television commands!

What we claimed as The Order is vanishing, but life rolls on, albeit at higher gasoline prices. I rode the bus back along University on a Saturday afternoon, and people still existed, they haven't been wiped away by the confusion that spreads every day.

Apparently, that was the 'reality check' I was looking for. It is too damn easy to be a college student and get swallowed up in the bubble world of Macalester, something that the seniors always like to observe... and I am a senior now. Where did normality go?? Was it on the bus?

It's the damn summer. Grit your teeth. Get serious. Either the collapse is coming, or it isn't. Either Bush's administration bends and crumbles, or it whiplashes all over, civil war, Arabs, Christians, Jews, Pashtuns, Chechens, nukes, oil, heroin. Goddesses of greed and avarice in the sky. Merchants of war fill the cracks. Profits for the madmen of all sides...

Oh, I forgot. On my birthday they declared sanctions on Syria. Brilliant.

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