I burned their young men, women, and children to death. I flayed as many nobles as had rebelled against me and draped their skins over the pile of corpses.
— ASHURNASIRPAL II
Ladies and gentlemen… we got him!
— PAUL BREMER
For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.
I watch the towers fall over and over again, each time pausing just before Flight 175 enters screaming into the south tower. Two burning grey obelisks: dead monuments. The start of it all. Something from before I could remember that reverberates throughout history, shrieking, howling in ghoulish agony. The leviathan momentarily wounded, dumbfounded, incapable of knowing why but asking anyway and then deciding the answer would never matter. Undeclared war, gripped with fear at the idea that there are people out there who want to take everything away from me, who despise me without knowing, who want to kill us.
In the world I live in, nothing happened on September 11th. No: wrong to say nothing happened. Something did happen, just something that’s been so endlessly reproduced and transmitted and caressed and hugged and kissed on the television that I’ll never know what. I could condense the details down to a single sentence: the perfect excuse.
And it gets so much worse.
War (far far away) was an atmospheric condition at home. A separate lesser anxiety in comparison to the real thing but nevertheless not ideal. On one hand: no one was going to break down the door to my house, kill my parents siblings and then gang rape me. No one was going to arrest my neighbors and detain them in a sweltering prison, packing them into a cell ten times full. No one was going to drop a bomb on my school. But it was there. A common topic of discussion during recess was debating whether they had dropped a nuclear bomb on Baghdad. It seemed like a reasonable decision to make to us and it seemed (cross-referencing against Pearl Harbor and the subsequent holocaust inflicted on Japan, first via firebombing and then the advertisement for careers in nuclear engineering posted over Nagasaki and Hiroshima) perfectly justifiable. It was just what we were taught. Have you ever heard an eight year old argue, passionately, in favor of the Vietnam War?
A classroom of miniature Kissingers. So easy for us to agree that charred flesh and blackened bone and screaming mothers were just the price you pay when you fuck with the United States. It sounds unbelievable, but it really happened. God, forgive me for being American. God, forgive me for letting them fuck me so early on in life. God, forgive me.
“Does the CIA use child prostitutes to control assets? I plead the 5th. The things we use to control assets are unsettling enough without going into details.”
The legacy of Jack Kennedy. How many unrepentant monsters have I walked by, spoken to, loved? I’ve always wanted, deep down, to ignore what they did. Sexual violence is an unspoken aspect of the Vietnam War: between 1965 and 1973, how many women and children were violated by the United States of America? How many of those living conduits of imperial power came home smiling waving off of planes, still too relieved to be home to really think about what they did? How many rifle muzzles were shoved into vaginas, rectums, mouths? How many triggers pulled? How many said no in a language these greenclad ogres frankly understood, if only on a visceral level? An open question to all GIs: do you pay for it at night, or do you sleep soundly knowing what you did happened so long ago, a million miles away?
A few bad apples as the go-to argument and the subtle undermining of the anti-war movement via the saintly figure of the wounded veteran, an imperial martyr enthroned on a wheelchair unjustly spat upon and called a baby killer by ignorant protesters. John Rambo as St. Longinus, bayoneting a pregnant woman and given sight through her spurting blood. Richard Ramirez practiced special forces style guerilla warfare on the United States. Poetic justice. He never did anything that America’s finest never did. This is why he had to be put away: there’s a time and a place for these things and the place is never at home.
They had that figured out a few thousand years ago. The koryos as the model for the United States Armed Forces, a naked pack of men wrapped in predatory skins. I see them crouching at dusk outside of quiet villages wrapped around the Dnieper and I see them in the faces of every United States soldier. A life lived between raw animal nature and humanity. First to fight, he’s loyal. Honor, courage, commitment. Corps values, Semper Fi. Oorah. He’s a Marine. You can do anything when you’re an American. Anything you want to anyone at any time. Go ahead: rent a van kidnap their kids and fuck them. Force the barrel into their mouth and pull the trigger and splatter cinematically red hot steaming blood all over the wall while their children scream and cry.
Every empire thinks it’s unique when the only thing that changes is scale: America is fundamentally the same as Babylon, Assyria, Rome, Spain, England, so on and so forth. It’s not a coincidence that the start-point of the kali yuga coincides roughly with the beginning of urban civilization. But Tao Lin got it wrong: history is not a timeline of shifting nurturer-ravisher influences. There’s a reason they only find clay goddesses in neolithic garbage dumps. Old Europe was not the Garden of Eden. Before the Aryans rode out of the steppes to do the type of brutality that leaves behind only genetic evidence, we had a race of people who worshipped skulls and ate their dead. The matrilineal DNA of every American.
From Boulestein, et al’s “Mass cannibalism in the Linear Pottery Culture at Herxheim”:
“In conclusion, all these observations … allow us to conclude that the individuals from deposit nine were cannibalized. Moreover, direct proof of this could be provided by the existence of chewing marks. From a morphological point of view, they are perfectly compatible with a human origin, but their characteristics do not allow us to exclude the actions of carnivores, especially dogs (Landt 2004). On the other hand, their distinctive distribution (10 cases out of 16 are situated near the broken ends of metatarsals, metacarpals and phalanges of the hands, and 3 on the olecranon process of the ulna) speaks strongly in favor of human choice rather than more or less random action by carnivores.” (p. 977)
Likely: human flesh consumed as a rule, not an exception, once the supply lines snap in half like a dry twig at the first sign of collapse. Former Americans gathered around a large fire in Central Park, the pond reflecting blackly the bottoms of tree branches, a child turning on a spit and everyone too tired and dim to really think about anything other than taste.
Ideally: a chemical attack on Washington D.C. Run a hose into the capitol building and flood it with sarin gas and watch the rats run out choking to death, clawing at their throats and eyes and watch the pus run down their nose and collect on their upper lips. Walk up to Chuck Schumer as he’s gasping crying for air on the ground trying to loosen his tie and start stomping on his head until his skull and brain are just this wet pink pulp on the marble steps and squat down and shovel raw wormlike cerebellum into your mouth handover fist.
And, very self-servingly, I question why I feel this way and whether this is healthy. This self-annihilating impulse and desire for collapse-as-catharsis. I tell myself that the people are not the government. And I’m right, but it’ll never matter.
What is America?
a gerontocratic imperial security state that shits death and pisses industrial runoff; a shrieking leviathan that takes sexual pleasure in murder; a grotesquely obese robber-baron, an ogre; an abjectly hideous and hypocritical nation whose primary export is filth and red hot liquid death; material sin; a nation of vast, boiling asphalt and concrete; in short, Babylon.
Essentially: the United States as we know it is done for, and thank God for that. Release is coming and the only thing you should fear is the shape it takes; violence on an unprecedented level, ethnic cleansing, indiscriminate bombing, reformation into something far, far worse than it already is, something more baldfacedly cruel and horrific — but in the end, America will not exist. Her name may be invoked until the end of history, but unlike Athens and Rome, never positively outside of a collection of squabbling post-American republics and principalities. It will become a byword for immorality, ethical adultery, cheap goods and more than anything else collapse. Collapse on a scale unforeseen: something that will make the fall of Rome look like a house of cards collapsing.
Remove every support beam and pillar from a residential apartment block and watch it free-fall: no more insulin, no more psychiatric medication, no more clean water, no more cheap food, severed supply lines, central heating a distant memory.
Two guns to every man and a whole lot of people with bones to pick. Land quotes deLillo in “Meltdown”, a passage regarding the idea that cities run hot. No. This is a side-effect of Land’s fantasized Los Angeles, a tropical hellscape gripped by social degradation and poor urban planning, permanently on the brink of an unknowable and aesthetically pleasing eschaton. There is nothing aesthetically pleasant about collapse: for examples look at, Sarajevo under siege and Berlin in late spring, 1945.
Cities are cold, skeletal structures kept bleeding by a rural hinter-heartland only imagined by their citizenry: suburbs form as a thick membrane and contract from six to nine a.m. then expand outward at rush-hour, inoculating cities against a hot interior. Don’t mistake body temperature for real warmth. Countries are organic, spreading outward from a coastal or riverside urheimat that will always feature heavily in any simplistic, primitive paens. Cities are one part of a biological whole, organs in a vast bleating body, steppes stretching thinly across the nation as skin. And the United States is sick, cancerous and spitting up blood and phlegm along the interstate. I have bad dreams about cum leaking pouring out of every window in the Empire State Building: collapse as a proverbial ejaculation, an orgasmic shuddering of the imperial state as the body twists and moans and the cells start to eat each other alive. America is cold and suffers from arrhythmia: this is why nothing happened between the years 2003 and 2008 and why she’s been making up for lost time ever since 2017, working even harder after 2020. The United States is touching itself and getting closer and closer to that aforementioned climax, filling its head with bad sexual fantasies of paramilitary violence and electoral fraud. The security state is just BDSM on a larger scale and just as ugly and dumb.
As the United States lurches towards autophagy and necrosis, the only correct feeling to have is relief. Political disintegration and balkanization are going to be brutal, moronic, and cruel, an entire set of post hoc pseudo-countries cropping up around the skeletal structure of America, jutting upward like tumors through patriotic ossification. A nascent fascist movement comprised of: rural landowners, landlords, discharged servicemen, rootless undersexed youths, puritanical feminists, evangelicals, intelligence community Mormons, tech workers, industrialists, militiamen, police officers, and right-wing journalists. 1776 meeting 1861 meeting 1933 meeting 1995 and converging on the eternal year, 2016.
Divorce hurts the children the most, you know.
From Goodall’s The Chimpanzees of Gombe: Patterns of Behavior, page 533:
“[u]ntil comparatively recently, cannibalism was thought to be another behavior ‘by which the human animal may be sharply distinguished from other primates’ (Freeman, 1964, p. 122). In the chimpanzee, we have seen that cannibalism may follow inter-group conflict with neighboring females. The bizarre behavior directed at the corpse by some adult males could well, with a little more intellectual sophistication, evolve into ritual.”
The United States has a terminal case of bone cancer. Take, for instance, Allegheny Station on the Frankford-Market Line in Philadelphia, my near daily entry-point into a waking nightmare of the future. Crumbling brick buildings lined up against an elevated rail line and when the train slows to a stop and I have the chance to look inside the windows I can see dead potted plants and empty rooms; along the avenue are pawn shops, bars, and jewelry exchange stores, the sidewalks peopled by packages of decaying flesh. Modern-day shantytowns under every bridge and at morning in the dark they huddle around small fires in the park. Peeling paint and necrotizing wounds. The infrastructure here is sick and scabrous. Bow-legged peddlers with weeping sores and beggars go up and down the train selling shower products or sob stories, their faces dry and desiccated and eyes filled with visceral beating human light. At street level below the institial space between sagging rooftops and train tracks an incoherent mass of victims passing back and forth across potholed black streets, weaving in between rusted support beams and again a train moves shrieking overhead, shaking the windows. The drug addicts, at least, are still people: the cops in their black naziesque uniforms watch, perennially twenty-four hours from deciding that lingchi is a better alternative to arrest.
Dogs bark and clatter against chainlink fences down porous side-streets lined with rusting cars: out here, in K/A, you’re a person — who you really are. And a minute off of Somerset, they’re doing chemotherapy and trying to cut away the rapidly metastasizing flesh: vinyl-sided apartment buildings that weren’t here a few years ago with large, open windows, behind them well furnished living rooms where I see pets or someone who’s too dim to buy curtains. Construction crews cut away old, unsightly buildings with industrial scalpels and in a matter of a few months another one of these ugly displays of sterility are up, soon to be peopled with grafted-on commuters and transplants from the Midwest.
When America is finally pulled off of life-support, I wonder what will happen to places like this. My best guess is door-to-door ethnic cleansing in University City as a form of extreme anti-gentrification, total silence downtown as the trains and buses stop running, starvation and then predation in the suburbs, the PPD’s hard reversion back to Rizzo-era tactics and the brief reign of policing-by-firebombing until the helicopters are shot down or run out of fuel, and then rigor mortis.
“In her heart she boasts: I sit enthroned as queen. I am not a widow. I will never mourn.”