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March 20, 2003
SPECIAL WAR EDITION: 20 March 2003

When I was a kid in South Carolina I never tired of poking fun at the outrageous piety of the born-again, peppered here and there over the town's landscape and, by the time myself and my brother were teens, beginning to show up in numbers within our own family in the form of among others an overweight uncle who now led every prayer before every Christmas (etc.) meal at excruciating length, my brother and I struggling to keep down laughs at the whole thing.

Down the town at the plaza, Chicago, this is what I talked about to begin with. "The men believe in the capital-R 'Rapture,'" I said. "Bush is an Uncle I'd make fun of over dinner, essentially, a buffoon, a tired old fool who hasn't the mind to really comprehend his own country's needs, thus acts on a personal feeling he deems the very baby Jesus talking to him, essentially." I talked among the crowd, among the skyscrapers (the buzz-saw cacophony falling from the helicopter above our heads) today to a man I tend to run into throughout my travels, the last time being outside of the bookstore in my neighborhood, where he works. He has his bike there with him, which I admire briefly.

"The violence of Rapture being undeniable, if you know anything about the book of Revelations, I think that Bush and his cohorts simply have it in mind that they'll push the thing along. Though it's also a fact that the pious son of a bitch -- Bush, mind you -- no doubt has the gall to believe that he'll be carried upward at the moment of return of the Lord. More likely of course that it'll just be some old lady in a trailer in the Ozarks, before all, the rest of us left burning down here in our filth."

My cohort here is not into this conversation, and we move on to lighter subjects, funnier talks: the folly of violence and violence itself as seen through the eyes of four gun-enthusiasts going by the name of Metallica, 1987's Master of Puppets, insanity.

Then the speeches.

I assert, again, my contention that what we need is a Mailer** or a Lewis Lapham in the flesh out here, a species of human unafraid of speaking to this mass of people here in the plaza the personal reality of all matters, whether that be through an inferno of whiskey or just through the absurdity of temporary human conviction that what is right is right and wrong and ugly wrong and ugly. I want to protest the general filth and shadiness of the world.

Our first speechmaker today is the obligatory Operation Push rep, a black man who shouts in varying cliché: No War! Peace Now!, etc...though he belts them out with the full punch of his diaphragm, sound system popping and whining through it all. I spot my old pal Brian C. in the crowd, who, during a show last week, stated to a crowd the very upright conviction as I see it that certain unelected Presidents of certain monolithic nations we know very well should have their heads paraded down Michigan Avenue on sticks.

I move up by Mr. C. and exchange a raise of the eyebrows, nodding toward the speaker. An exchange of slaps on the backs between myself and Mr. C.: we mutter a little about Metallica and Mailer. Right on, my friends, right on.

"Fuck Bush!" shoots upward -- The Great Noise -- belted from the mouth of a trench-coated Loop executive at my back just as the second speaker, a rep from the Arab-American Action Network takes the stages and chants a little, followed by a civilly disobedient Nun, Sister Dorothy, who will be jailed, it is said, within the coming weeks, for her activities. She makes a spirited analogy between certain Presidents' approaches to foreign policy and international relations being quite like that of a football coach strategizing to win a great contest of wills on the field. We, the people, laugh and scream, though myself only voicing along in mind, for the moment, as I am still standing with a high awareness of my body, my mind in the space, the seeming significance of the riot police who line the street in shoulder-to-shoulder lines along the walk.

Teamsters, a student or a two, an old hippie who attempts through a succession of failing microphones (I wonder, just for a moment, if this is being engineered by the American Gestapo and their teammates, though I quickly discard the idea that they'd have the know-how to accomplish such) to lead the thousands of us, here, people, in song: "I'm on my way...." which makes me think mostly of an old hair-metal anthem, among other things. The finalé is led by Mr. Aaron Patterson, former home state IL death row inmate and, at the first pronouncement from his mouth, leader now of a troop of near 10,000 here. "So I ain't gonna make much of a speech here, cause we all know what's going on, right? Bush, the man himself, he's proved that he's nothing more than a gangster, right? Are we gonna let the motherfucker jerk around the people he's supposed to be leading?!..." And on Mr. Patterson goes, the man voicing the very clear and vulgar and very real anger that sits in the minds of all here, tonight. Do we support the troops? Yes, we do. Bring them back to their homes and be done with it. The man then leads us out onto the streets himself, the only one of us with the wherewithal, the simple yet unflagging gall to cut through the police line and take to the streets, at which point we take it up Adams, left on State, right onto Monroe and stopped there by a flanking maneuver of riot cops on horses, a magnificent cheer erupting when the horses finally step back into single file and the horde pushes forward, east, toward Lake Michigan. Walking fast now, next to a run. Aaron Patterson now himself emerges from the crowd in front of me, passing on my left and stopping, delivering a short message to those in the vicinity to take it down Lake Shore Drive, the freeway, essentially, lining the lakefront, and then takes the moment to give me a hi-five. All right. And there is that moment, in there, the screaming surrounding you, where you forget what you are doing, you forget and suddenly your lungs are opening and gushing forth with the rest of the people and you become aware that you've forgotten what exactly is happening but you're still outside, really, and there, once Lake Shore is achieved, I know this keenly. I STAND IN PROTEST OF THE GENERALIZED AND OUTRIGHT DISGUSTING INHUMANITY OF THE WORLD! CONSTANT AGONY, THIS IS SHIT, ALL OF IT, CONCRETE, STEEL, DEAD MEN AND WOMEN, THE CITY AND ITS BUILDINGS AND LIGHTS ARE ALL ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL OFF TO MY LEFT AND THERE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE HIGHWAY HALF OF OUR THOUSANDS CROWD IS STREAMING UP THROUGH CARS BACKED UP TO THE NORTHSIDE, HAVE TO BE, MEN AND WOMEN WITH THEIR WINDOWS DOWN AND INDEX AND MIDDLE FINGERS RAISED TO THE WIND, RIGHT ON, RIGHT ON, WE HAVE LIFE, SOMETHING, AT LEAST, TO THANK YOU FOR, AND TWO GANGSTAS, HAIR DONE UP IN CORN ROWS AND BODIES SITTING ATOP THEIR GOLD-CHROMED MERCEDES, ONE CHUGGING A FORTY, SCREAMING ALONG WITH THE REST OF THE CROWD, HORDE, A LITTLE VERY, AT THIS POINT AND CUT OFF BY YET ANOTHER FLANKING MANEUVER BY HORSEMEN WEARING BLUE HELMETS AND ONE BY ONE NOW CAREFULLY LOWERING THEIR PLEXI-GLASS VISORS, BULLET-PROOFED AND POISED AND THEY HAVE CORNERED US THIS SIDE, 20FT WALLS OF FREEWAY EITHER SIDE OF US, BUT ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THEMSELVES LIES OPEN ROADWAY TO BE HAD, TO BE TRAVELED, THE AMERICAN DREAM, OUR LIVES, AND WONDER FOR THE MOMENT, COLLECTIVE, WHAT THEY THINK THEY CAN DO, HERE, SHORT OF KILLING OR ARRESTING THE VERY LOT OF US, AND SO AGAIN DO THE BEAUTIFUL HAPLESS CONCRETE-WALKING HORSES MOVE WITH THE BULLET-PROOFED UNFORNATES ATOP THEM AND WE SURGE, CHEERING AND CLAPPING FOR THE COOPERATION OF THESE OFFICERS, YOU SEE, THEY ARE WITH US, THEY LOVE US, THE NETWORKS WILL BE TALKING ABOUT PRECISION-GUIDED BOMBING, CIVILIAN CASUALTIES, NUCLEAR HOLY WARRIORS, 1000 CRUISE MISSILES, DEAD PEOPLE WILL PILE ON TOP OF EACH OTHER THROUGH THE WHOLE OF IT AND IT IS SICK, ABSOLUTELY SICK AND TWISTED AND THE MEN AND WOMEN THERE DELIVERING THE BLOW ACT ON BEHALF OF ORDERS DELIVERED BY TYRANTS, DO THEY, UNTIL YET AGAIN, A GOOD FOOTBALL FIELD DOWN, STOPPED BY STANDING OFFICERS, THIS TIME, AND THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FREEWAY NOW EMPTY, WOMEN AND MEN SITTING ATOP THE BARRIER WALL GETTING YELLED AT BY OFFICERS ON BICYCLES OVER THERE UNTIL ONE LADY SITTING THERE GETS YANKED OFF AND CUFFS CLAP DOWN ON HER WRISTS AND LET THEM GO LET THEM GO AND ANOTHER, THIS ONE NOT GOING PEACEFULLY, YANKED FROM THE WALL AND PUSHED AND SHE THRASHES AND THRASHES UNTIL THE BILLY CLUB COMES OUT AND SHE IS WHIPPED, LET THEM GO LET THEM GO, WHILE THE WHIPPING CONTINUES, ABSOLUTELY SENSELESS, SHE IS TINY, SMALL, PUNK WITH SILLY HI-SCHOOL MOHAWK, JESUS, AND MOVE, SURGE ONTO THE SCENE AND SPREAD OUT INTO THE STOPPED, ONCOMING TRAFFIC, THROUGH THE TRAFFIC AGAIN, ARMS SPREAD WIDE AND SIGNALING TO DRIVERS WHO SIGNAL BACK TO YOU THAT ALL IS OKAY, ALL IS OKAY, WE ARE ALIVE, SITTING IN CARS, ON OUR FEET, ALIVE...

yet late for a meeting with my friend, and with hordes of riot police now descending on Ohio Street and Lake Shore, I ducked out down Ontario toward my rendezvous, talking with an old man, a suburban Chicagoan who remembered Vietnam and, like the rest of us, was disgusted by a great many things, including war and rapture and the attendant violence and outraged by the scene just transpired. But, as he said, there is self-preservation to be taken into account.

But he did not know the way, the trail I sought, so he walked on. I peered south, north, then walked on myself through the night, men and women and boys and girls forming a small parade behind me in dispersal, the failure to do which would eventually lead to over 500 arrests this night, of men and women assembling. We walked, now, and I finally found the place, one hour late and my friend sitting at the bar and watching the remainder of the demonstrators on television getting arrested and/or wandering through the Streeterville neighborhood. "Jesus Hell," I said, gasping. "Fucking Rapture."

"Indeed," for she knows what I'm talking about, just now. Killing only begets itself. And on we go...it should be a great show.



**from my horoscope, this day, 20 March 2003: "Many otherwise intelligent people cling to a perverse model of intimacy articulated by Norman Mailer. As reported in Leah Garchik's column in the San Francisco Chronicle, Mailer described marriage as 'an excretory relationship, in which you take all the crap you hide from the world and dump it on the person closest to you. But the proviso is that you have to be willing to take theirs.' If your approach to intimate communion has even a shred of this vulgar stupidity, Virgo, you're now in prime time to banish it from your repertoire forever. You'll attract uncanny luck and inspiration whenever you work in a way opposite to Mailer's; that is to say, when you train yourself to call up all the beauty you hide from the world and offer it up to the person closest to you."

--
Todd Dills
THE2NDHAND publishes short fiction and nonfiction. Todd Dills edits the broadsheet and recently relocated to Birmingham, Alabama, after eight years of publishing from Chicago.

See other articles by Todd Dills.

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