The Thrum of a Steady Decay:
Yesterday, the Rude Pundit was talking to a group of people, as he does from time to time in his Clark Kent guise, and one was a large, beefy young man with a buzz cut hair-do and camouflage pants. The Rude Pundit asked if he was in the military. "No," the young man answered (let's call him "Rob," for the sake of clarity). "But my brother's a Marine and he's gettin' sent to Fallujah the day after tomorrow."

"What's Fallujah?" asked a stupid person in the group.

The Rude Pundit answered, "Imagine the most fucked-up, violent place on earth. Now bomb the shit out of it." Rob hung in there for a few minutes, tears streaming down his face, until he finally walked away and into the light rain that was falling.

After a moment, the Rude Pundit turned away from the group and headed over to Rob, sitting on a bench, his head down, sobbing. "When did you find out?" he asked Rob.

"Just a couple of days ago." Rob paused for a minute, staring at his big hands, just trying to stop his large frame from shaking from the wracking tears. "I don't know what I'll do if I lose my brother. I don't know what I'll do." Rob talked about how his brother was in an accident at the base a few months ago and nearly died, but he was patched up "with 500 stitches" and was now ready to head to Fallujah with his unit to prepare for the great and grand invasion that we've all been promised after the election. "I don't know what I'd do without my brother. I'm sorry. I don't wanna talk about this anymore."

The Rude Pundit had no words of wisdom, no way to say to Rob how fucked up the world is right now. Rob knew that. Rob didn't give a shit about politics, Kerry, Bush, or Saddam. Rob only knew that his brother was being sent to die for a cause that provided no comfort whatsoever. These were not the cries of someone who was proud of what his brother was doing, someone who believed in the rightness of the mission. It was simply the cry of someone who has learned that he has no control over circumstances, over who says how his brother lives and dies.

Here's a deal: the Rude Pundit will give up a Kerry victory for the Democrats taking back one or both houses of Congress. There's the trade: Kerry for the Senate. Because, in the end, someone's gotta answer for this ongoing crime, this erosion of a generation, this destruction of trust. And the only way that's going to happen is if Bush is still in power, but having to deal with a Democratic majority in at least one house that's unafraid of investigating and telling the truth (that, in itself, is a pipe dream, though). Even a Kerry victory with a Democratic Senate will never get to the real insidious nature of what's been done to this country and to the world. It is the way of America, is it not, to suppress truth for years until it is distant enough to have little effect. But we have been damaged - deeply, with a sense of trauma, and it wasn't 9/11 that did it - we were getting over that horror. Instead, we are all becoming Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome sufferers because of how the Iraq war has stripped away our sense of self-worth. (Those who support the war sound increasingly insane as they scramble to rationalize it. There's only one way to justify a continued American presence: to clean up the fucking mess we've made.)

What if this wasn't an election year? What if bad news wasn't seen through the filter of partisan politics (if that's possible anymore)? Would the lack of WMDs be seen as more than a slap at Bush's re-election chances? Would the deaths and injuries of soldiers in Iraq be viewed as something other than support for Kerry? (Goddamn, how inconvenient it is that people die in a war, huh?) Would the lack of military preparedness despite the President's constant declarations of the opposite have any greater significance? The war has taken on an increasingly Joseph Heller-esque absurdity, as soldiers are ordered to travel on the most dangerous roads without the proper armor or support in order to transport contaminated fuel that is useless and would be rejected when it was received. What the fuck? No, really, and with complete outrage, what the fuck? If this wasn't an election year, would someone be called to account? Because, you know, someone's gotta be held accountable at some point. Someone's gotta explain why we're on the fast track to the second thousandth dead soldier.

The Rude Pundit stood in the rain and had nothing to say to Rob. He placed his hand on Rob's shoulder for a moment and then headed inside to get dry.

Comedy tomorrow. Tragedy today.