Friday, September 11, 2015

The Last Twenty Years: A Personal History

Many times when chaos and tragedy strike close to home the mind jumps to conclusions which have very little to do with reality.

Case in point--just over 20 years ago I was behind the wheel of a taxi trying to make ends meet while my second novel was circulating through a maze of unimpressed literary agents in New York City. On Wednesday, April 19th, 1995, right at 9:00am I had just let a fare out at a shopping center parking lot in, Edmond, OK. He was going to work at a movie rental store.

Before I was out onto the street the Yellow Cab dispatcher on the radio said, "What was that?" A second, or less, later I heard the explosion. Although I was 12, or so miles north and east of downtown Oklahoma City the concussion was strong enough to set off car alarms. Within minutes I turned south on what is called the Broadway Extension. It is a freeway running from Edmond straight into the heart of OKC. Driving south I could see a great pall of black smoke rising from the middle of the distant skyline.

My first thought was that an airplane had crashed into the center of the city. To this day I have no earthly idea why that particular scenario came to mind. It did though and the memory of it has stuck with me during the two decades since.

Of course there was no plane crash in Oklahoma City, or a vast international plot behind the devastating explosion. It was simply a couple of deadly rubes with a truck bomb, who, as the late science fiction author Mike McQuay said, "...were scared that if the government took away their guns they wouldn't be able to fuck their wives."

Six years later I was still in the hack. The novel had been turned down by just about everyone who could read the English language. I was picking up a few extra bucks every now and then by contributing stories and op-ed pieces to a couple of alternative newspapers. The morning of September 11th was equally as beautiful weather-wise as the one on April 19th years before. During the middle of it that very same dispatcher came on the air and said to another driver, "Yeah, a plane crashed into the World Trade Center."

The initial thing which came to mind? Some goof wearing a pink Izod polo shirt couldn't figure out how to fly his new Beechcraft and bounced it off one of the towers.

Little did I know.

By noon central time I was still on the streets and it was apparent to myself and nearly everyone else I had talked to, the republic was suffering an attack the likes of which hadn't been seen since December, 1941.

It seemed within hours the nation, just like it had done after Pearl Harbor, began to morph. However, unlike late 1941, in the fall of 2001 there ware no empires, or evil dictatorships driving huge military forces across continents, or seas. In short, there weren't any spots on a map like Tokyo, or Berlin for us to focus all our anger and might on. No, there was only some shadowy organization called Al-Qaeda, which suddenly seemed a Kafkaesque incarnation of Ian Fleming's, SPECTRE, with its head, not the fictional Ernst Stavro Blofeld, but a very real, Osama bin-Laden.

It was commonly believed he was holed up in Afghanistan which was run by an odious bunch known as the Taliban. Despite some chest beating demands by George W. Bush and British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, they refused to give him up, although now it's unclear if they ever really knew where he was in the first place. It didn't take long for us to go in. We've been there ever since.

It went downhill from there.

George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, knowing we were in the neighborhood, milked the fear, anger, and xenophobia running rampant in America and invaded Iraq. Bush number two wanted to prove he had a bigger penis than his old man and Cheney wanted his boys at the Halliburton corporation to make bazillions of dollars, which they did.

We initially won the war, made sure Saddam Hussein was hanged, then screwed the pooch so completely when it came to remaking Iraq it ultimately gave rise to those beasts currently known as ISIS.

By the time the utterly amoral and clueless Bush and Cheney administration came to a close the U.S. economy was in nearly as much trouble as it was at the beginning of the great depression and George W. Bush was saying things like, "I don't care where bin-Laden is. He is irrelevant."

Well you have to say something don't you?

It took Barack Obama, a liberal democrat, who had promised during his campaign to kill Osama bin-Laden, not only to save us from another economic catastrophe, but to take out the evil twit who came up with the  9-11 attack.

In the last couple of years, Cheney, ever the Dark Lord, has been busy attempting to eviscerate Obama's middle eastern foreign policy in order to justify his complicity in a needless war and its aftermath. Meanwhile, former President  George W. Bush, always the frat guy, seems more interested in the score of the latest SMU football game than anything else.

They appear to be utterly disconnected to the cost of their cynical adventure in Iraq, not just geopolitically, but with regard to the dead and maimed returning here and strewn across the streets of places like Mosul.

Perhaps they are because, in the end, the truth is history isn't simple math. There are no hard rules such as two plus two equals four. And, as every cop in the world will tell you, the least reliable evidence in a criminal case is provided by eye witnesses.

Given those parameters the people who see it differently are certainly free to express their views of what has happened over the last two decades. However, these are mine and they are not only just as valid, but I like to think a tad more real than the ones oozing out of the far right wing of this nation.

Hey, despite what those angry and ruthless yokels say it is still a free country. Take all of it for what you will.

sic vita est


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