“The fortune wheel delivered us to the wombs of our USA mothers. Ensconced us, deposited us there.
We were born, without honors, into the clutch of America. Our mothers (and sometimes, fathers) saw us, regaled us, as infants without nation — if only for a few moments. Nascent, pink, mammalian, we made our parents feel strange: the wet egg-shell skin; the animal cry.
Oddly surreal. Powerfully human. If only for a few moments.
Then, at once, an invisible laying of hands — silent, clean, rational — began their anointments. With exacting competence, these silent fingers molded our future, foretold our roles: soldier, convict, engineer, creative. Our parents’ social station, almost blindly, almost too obviously, delivered our fate. The chart was now set, the choices made.
This is how the world works. This is how it has always worked.
Random birth assignments: onto nation, onto potential. You are born, either into Empire, or its satellites. You are born, as the next cog in the machine. The infant inherits all the commitments and relationships of the empire, immediately, just as infants in the satellites inherit all the commitments and relationships to support the empire. The empire’s expectations will be taught, at great length, to our infants soon enough. But right now, all our infants can do, on both sides, is shiver in the inaugural cold, cover the inaugural light.
Right now, they are hungry, and sleeping agog, in their first pristine dream. How long will this first dream last? Will it last mere seconds, before the hunger comes, the bombs explode, the dust rains down? Will it last past the first year, past the second, and into the third? Will the dream last to six years old, then to sixteen, then to sixty? What will determine how long the good, native dream lasts?
At what point do we forget the dream, deny the dream, forsake the dream? At what point does the empire force you, cajole you, to suppress the very idea, the very existence, of the very first dream, our bequeathment?”
Hey, look at me! I’m an Empire Kid! Let me riff, here, on why its great to be an American, 2018.
On the surface, I enjoy the relative freedoms I have, particularly free speech, and I use my free speech license heavily. I’m an artist, but one that engages, speaks out, embarrasses myself. On Twitter, I troll the GOP and NRA, with insta-memes I create on the fly. I used to send anti-Bush films I created to Dick Cheney, and got added to a government watch list, which held up me working at the Canadian Consulate in Seattle for six months, before the Consulate finally approved me, probably because they hated Bush, too. I was removed from the watchlist only last year.
Even though I have brown skin, I rarely get held up in the daily machinations of life. It does happen, don’t get me wrong. I’ve had Seattle police wave me over and ask me what race I am. I’ve had 7-11 managers (proudly) exclaim they would like to blow my fucking head off. Good times. But I am aware of the progress made since Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, and the like: aware that our society blends pretty well, even though it has a very long way to go.
My great grandparents escaped internecine warfare in Mexico and became migrant farmers and railroad workers in Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota and Illinois. They served in the USA military. They married blonde folks, got that assimilation thing happening. Mexico today is a quasi-narco state, and even though that pains me, as Mexicans are a warm and intelligent people, particularly their artists, I am glad I do not live there. My great grandparents carried the football over the goal-line, and our family has been doing a happy dance ever since, minus the racism and loss of opportunities. That’s America: let you in, and then it’s all up to you, baby, bootstraps and all that. You may have to drink from a separate water fountain, but you won’t be conscripted and thrown into the back of a truck.
America is not a bastion as much as an organism which constantly needs workers and soldiers, and immigrants fit the bill nicely, and always have. Want a railroad built? No problem, grab some Chinese. Want some onions picked? No worries, hire some Mexicans, Guatemalans; hell, it don’t matter where they come from! Need child care, elderly care, janitors, prostitutes, and sometimes organ donors? Need some drugs? The USA has the solution for that, don’t ya know.
So to be an American means yes, you won’t be as destitute and as threatened as if you lived in some other country, such as Syria, or the Congo, but you won’t be honored as a first rate citizen either, pink patriot of the empire. You will be a cog that is allowed to eat at McDonald’s, for $1 a burger, and you can watch all the free television you want, such as sports. And the rabble is allowed their alcohol and their cigarettes, to round out the experience, before it inevitably volunteers for the army.
I may be a character of Empire Kids, it’s not known yet. Sometimes, in books, you have to insert the Angry Black Character at the middle or end of the book, so as to not turn off readers who are looking for escape and entertainment at the onset. That means you create a sexy, sultry character to start the book, to tease the reader into turning the pages. Or, try to insert action, within a violence motif, because even though Americans purport to abhor violence, they love violent sports, games, and television shows. The NFL, XBOX and CSI franchises have muscle, gargantuan muscle, for good reason. But the good reason is difficult to identify, rationalize, contemplate.
If, or when, we do contemplate the reasons why we love bloodsport, corpses, zombies and comic book heroes, certain feelings arise in the back of our brain, not easily identifiable. I, as the narrator, won’t attempt to identify these certain feelings now: why bore you so soon? I’m just an author trying to get some ideas fleshed out. I don’t want to lose you.
But here is an observation, a segue: what’s not to love about baseball, muscle cars, apple pie, fishing, hunting, a land-grant university system, and the concept of social security, where you get back the money you, yourself, put in? Compulsory education? Yes, it keep kids interested in something, anything, for 12 years: think about that. America has certain traditions, or amalgams of traditions, that are endearing, if one looks at the whole nation-state program. Women are indeed valuable voters, and breadwinners. Black people make for some of the best artists and sports participants around, in addition to soldiering a military. Jazz is the ironic result of an American people in pain, which of course spurred on the lusty, uplifting rock n’ roll.
America, when called upon, can rebuild a war torn Europe, counterpoised to destroying a Hawaii, a Puerto Rico, or whatever country is needed in the portfolio. America has its elements of hope, with only whiffs of abstracted pain.
But we know this, dear Empire readers. We all know what there is to know — we listen to NPR and watch the news once in awhile. Most of our Hollywood films have the underdog story as their go-to feel-good: the minority who fights the obstacles, gets to the promised land. We know the struggles of the Other, whoever, wherever, they are. Any heartwarming story where the Other gets their day in the sun we cheer for, if just for a few moments, before we turn to our hyper-focused tasks at hand. Cuts our guilt down a little, ya know?
For a story as large as Syria, well…maybe that’s a little too complex to track, too cumbersome to diagram in our real, waking moments. But our entertainments, our 3 act plays: they’re more terse, more palatable; we’re in, then we’re out. Clean, taut engagement, fitting nicely before bedtime.
Where should Empire Kids start? How sweeping is this project to be? Not all of it calls out genocide, the Military-Industrial complex, plastics, and artificial intelligence. There is that classic American soul, somewhere, buried beneath our piles of CDs and best-seller novels.
Am I right?
It is somewhere, right?
EMPIRE KIDS is a narrative about the current American empire and its shaping of the sociological psyche on its ordinary citizens: the pressures, the guilts, the sublimations, the addictions.
It’s a post-modern fiction, in that the world now is a readership of one unifying mind, for the first time in history. The Internet, along with jet travel and globalization, has created (is creating, in situ) this unifying mind, with a new set of expectations for the future, and a new critique or revisionism of world history, as has been presented in seemingly anachronistic texts. Meanings of freedom, voice, nation, and control are all called into question, as is the meaning of survival, which has become visceral again.
This story comes from the life-cycle of a post-modern, 21st century American as she is born, groomed, raised, and indoctrinated into her overarching birth-station, which unbeknownst to her is an empire, in the classic sense. As she grows into her knowledge about human societies and empires, she realizes that rotting empires like America, in a computerized-nuclear age, are something altogether different than Rome-like collapses of the past, and that her current set of neuroses are in fact brand new phenomena to her, her countrymen, to history, and the world itself.
It’s a story of 21st Americans as they struggle for an “authentic” life, beyond yoga classes, Burning Man, self-help books, marijuana; for “meaning” beyond the teleplay morals espoused on Netflix or Amazon; for “peace” in contention with the caffeine, sugars, cortisols and endorphines in the bloodstream.
A new Leviathan reveals itself: homegrown, self-birthed, dangerously cannibalistic, a time-bomb. Can our brethren respond? Can America reach?
Would you like to a critical reader of the next set of installments, the ideations toward a narrative structure, of EMPIRE KIDS? If so, contact me.
Copyright © Michael James Hawk, all rights reserved.