1. In the Interest of a PG rating, the writer has used the less piercing adjective, Flog , in place of his first choice, F_ _ _.
2. The writer makes reference to a Moody Blues lyric from the song, “Painted Smile,” in paragraph 6.
Day-old Bread with a Splatter of Innards
Not a cup was raised, nor turkey leg shaved to the bone this Thanksgiving day, without an exchange of nods and sorrowful sway of the head, and a view on Afghanistan to chase our first bite. A country whose name most of us can’t spell, nor properly locate on a crumpled old map, but easy enough to sound-out, without spitting your food, if you go easy on the F , and keep a stiff bottom lip. Dark meat, or white, we all have an opinion, don’t we? What shall we do with Afghanistan, worse yet, what shall we do to Afghanistan? Gravy rolling down your chin, and you wipe it with an angry fist, for the discussion has raised your ire. Four thousand innocent sons whose parents have nothing to be thankful for, four thousand brothers and sisters whose lives have been cut in half by the fire-hardened saber of the Devil himself, four thousand epitaphs which, even if strung together like an endless line of dominos, can never carry the weight of just one life. So, you ask me what I think as I reach clumsily for the stuffing, day-old bread with a splatter of innards, your voice is tender, but your eyes are demanding, your eyes always give you away. I don’t know what to think, I don’t have an answer, its not that simple, but your eyes are not distracted by red wine on a white tablecloth. What truths exist that I cannot see? If I know a tree is falling in a faraway forest how can I turn a deaf ear to its thundering aftermath? I know more than what I see. I know what I feel, and it's complicated. We are a people struck by images and we frame our truths thereby. And words are so final, especially when laid to rest on a granite page. I have seen other truths, beyond that appalling unbearable truth, when our country’s innocence was sucked like the Devil’s favorite candy, his lips smacking as he swallowed the last of its sweetness, telling us to Flog ourselves, heavy on the F, not caring what vile spit falls on our faces. I cried, we all cried. But I cried again when I let my gaze wander beyond the shadow of our own dark cloud;
A young Afghani girl, no more than fourteen, crouching, knees enveloping her chest, sinking into herself. Small. She holds her head shawl across her lips, showing us only her eyes. No discernable pupil, just polished black shiny marbles in a delicate sea of milk. The eyes are all she has left, unblinking, detached, unaware of the pain they project. A tear forms, but it does not reach the corner of her eye, it simply rolls lazily from the center of her eyelid onto a yielding cheek. There are no audible cries for no-one listens. A shield of silence magnifies the weight of her heart, making it too large for our grasp, drawing us into its emptiness. What sadness must exist where a tear cannot be bothered to follow the path it has known for all of time. It just falls, languidly.
A fiery eye, in a clear blue sky. Darkness where daylight should be. Lives falling, without making a sound, like leaves on a cold Autumn day. Four thousand single lives, each worth a thousand times more to the child who is waiting by the front door. A husband who has died holding his pewter framed bride, leaving his fingerprints across her flat cheek. A dead man’s voice travels the skies, holding his pregnant wife at the end of a wet phone. Anger. Hatred. Revenge. An eye for an eye – God’s on our side, he is cradling the dying, but there are so many, and some fall to the ground.
A still, colorless photo. Two soldiers embrace, one is the captor and one the captive, but I don’t know which is which, for they are both heavily armed, and with a shared look of charity on their tired faces. An armed boy, young enough to dream of flying, but old enough to know of dying, watches with a hint of satisfaction in his slightly upturned lips, like watching his parents kiss on their silver anniversary. What reverence exists where enemies honor first their country above all, where men are brothers before all else, and after all else. What lies beyond this photo that we cannot see? What truth evades us for another day? How many faceless men have died beyond this frame? This issue is perhaps too complex to be trivialized and shared like day-old bread with a splatter of innards,
This evening's documentary doles out a clip - a man with no face stares into a wedding photographer’s camera, spilling his image over a groom who dances in celebration though he cannot see his bride’s face, but he knows she is beautiful and he tramples onto a faceless man. The man has not been dead for long, for there is still color in his eyes, blue like the tentative skies around him. Large, round, no skin left to shape them, refusing us the comfort of that first line of discrimination. Eyes unguarded in a bloodless skull, perhaps licked clean by a dog that no longer gets table scraps. Startled. No fear, just a look of shock. Disbelieving that his brother could add that most final of insults to an already grievous injury. No shame in his eyes, nowhere to hide it, just bewilderment. What hatred exists where a man removes his brother’s face and leaves him to stare at the sun, unable to shield his soul from a wedding photographer. This issue is perhaps too complex to be trivialized and shared like day-old bread with a splatter of innards,
I watch in disbelief as a network anchor walks on a map of Afghanistan, an insensitive giant stepping on worthless lives, leaving his Gucci mark on their bony behinds. A thirty second spot advertises an exclusive video of the New York disaster, shot by a helicopter. A bird's eye-view of our broken heart. Destruction. Murder. Exclusive. Now you too can look down on the stain of life that we now know was evaporating like spilt wine on a fine tablecloth. So, let’s run to fill our bowls with sugar-sweet cereal, and drink our favorite brand, before the painted faces arrive, “I sing, I dance, Give me a chance to do my turn for you, With backflips, cartwheelings, Somersault feelings, What’s there left to do...” In the following thirty second spot, tomorrow’s story is taking shape, the morning crew will air live from a navy carrier in the Arabian Sea, as it drops a bomb on a pair of dark eyes and a man with no face, and two brothers at war, in a warm embrace. This is morning entertainment Ladies and Gentlemen – I know you’re out there, I can hear you crying, so, swallow it fast, with a lukewarm cup of coffee, while you wrap the kids’ lunches, day-old bread with a splatter of innards. We trivialize and we advertise and our satellite reception has not been interrupted by so many still wandering souls. I feel sick.
Nineteen limbs on this evil Leviathan and not a single one Afghan. A people too physically weak to exorcise un-welcomed demons and an insolent government too morally weak to defend its people. But what choice do we have? I truly don’t know. Maybe we can take back the arms we traded for souls when our friends were our enemies and our enemies our redeemers? We’re in a schoolyard of bullies now – finder’s keepers, losers weepers - we swap alliances like school-boy lunches, tightly sealed so you can’t smell what you’re getting.
I want revenge as much as the next guy, but, even with a black hood over my head and a stiff upper lip, I see their colorful eyes. I hate and I care, and I am torn. These feelings pull me like a red bandana across a defining line. It only takes one inch to lose, and when the winners let go, the losers fall, they always fall, and, sometimes, they don’t get up. These are a complex people, you can’t chew them like yesterday’s stuffing, day-old bread with a splatter of innards, and a yellow pack of freeze-dried cereal for the crying children. For the most part these are a people who deserve redemption. Their religion a shield to those who disrespect it, their country a playground for those who will suck it dry, their freedom passing through their hands like a cold winter breeze and they can’t as much as rub their palms together to stop the throbbing. So the answer is - I don’t have an answer. I don’t know what to do, but I do know what not to do. We cannot lose our honor to destroy theirs, I don’t care how many Cola’s it sells. Let’s not dishonor the lives of a people rich in history, let’s not dishonor those whose lives we cannot yet surmise for their souls are still lost in the heart of a city and the granite too hot for a proper engrave. Maybe the trick is to win, but to not let go. But winners always gloat, and they will raise their hands above their heads, and bend their knees, and turn their faces to God, and the losers, the losers fall. How many shiny black eyes will drown in the milky sea of victory? Let us collect these dark-eyed tears into a doggy bag of sadness and let us share it with our neighbors like yesterday’s turkey. Let us be judicious about what we do, for we can’t shake our finger at God to ask for forgiveness.
So the answer is we cry, and a tear forms in my eye, though it will take its practiced route, for it knows no other. I take a short breath, for the lump in my stomach has grown very large, and I reach for day-old bread with a splatter of innards, and I spill red wine on a fine table cloth, and your eyes demand an answer, but I have nothing to say. It’s all so very sad.