FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Back Off or I’ll Snap

by DAVID VEST

Home from a four-day gigathon, from the Oregon coast to Mt. Hood, with my ears still ringing, desperate for shut-eye, and flat out of luck. Between the neighbor’s crack-of-dawn leaf blower and the morning headlines, who can fall asleep? Would-be nurse on rampage in Arizona … wild teen gunplay in Oklahoma … states and counties in death-penalty feeding-frenzy in sniper case … murder rates up … theft rising … rape increasing … Bush urging everyone to “do your job as an American.”

Sniper bullets in Maryland and Virginia killed 10 people. With the suspects in custody, things got “back to normal” in a land where 10 children are shot to death every day. And where upwards of 47 people a day shoot themselves, not counting hunters.

30,000 Americans were killed by guns in 1998. While Chief Charles Moose was hunting the snipers, roughly 450 other people were gunned down in the U. S., not counting suicides. I don’t know how many were garroted, smothered, duct-taped to the railroad tracks or driven mad by rally monkeys and frantic red plastic thundersticks while trying to watch a goddamn baseball game.

“Back off or I’ll snap,” warned Barry Bonds as reporters gathered around his locker. After the infernal racket he had to endure for a week, it’s a wonder he didn’t leave the field in a strait-jacket, bawling like Dusty Baker’s three-year-old.

Imagine what a real baseball fan, assuming such a thing exists in Southern California, must have felt like, sitting with scorecard in lap trying desperately to see the game through a quaking bamboo thicket of red nervous energy. Imagine what our hypothetical fan had to pay for the seat.

I’m waiting for them to start selling thundersticks at symphony concerts and the theater. Why not? Most of the corporate seat-holders are bored out of their minds by fauns, sylphides and oboes and furious at having to turn off their cell phones. Let’s have some real catharsis for a change. Hell, I think they ought to hand the balloon tubes out whenever Congress is in session. It will lend a whole new dimension to the art of the filibuster. And it will look great on television when the president gives the State of the Union speech. Maybe the Republicans could get red balloon tubes and the Democrats could get blue ones.

Or maybe we’d need three colors, to match the president’s three moods. Most of the time, either he’s apoplectic with rage when we see him, making his agitated, bitter demands, or he’s so depressed-looking he seems almost comatose, barely able to keep his eyelids up as he reads from the teleprompter. (Once in a while we catch a glimpse of the relaxed glad-hander, the ballpark greeter of old, giving people some “touch” and a friendly smirk.)

“People are crazy, times are strange,” says Dylan.

Alabama was first to announce that it would seek the death penalty for the sniper suspects. An echo with an epicenter near the Potomac swiftly followed, with Maryland and Virginia claiming rights. On the networks, experts discuss the jurisdictional squabbles, adding “if they are guilty” as a routine disclaimer, the way they used to say “alleged.”

Think of these experts as just so many people waving red hyperbolical thundersticks, drowning out the point of view of anyone who believes that the country is already too violent, and that the solution might begin with asking the country to stop killing its own citizens, whatever they may have done.

As long as my government has the right to kill me, then I exist at its pleasure. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

Of late the focus of anti-death penalty activists has been on using DNA to prove that many of the people on death row are in fact innocent. That’s wonderful, when the innocent are spared and set free. But it’s not the real issue.

Should a government have the power to kill the people it exists to serve, that’s the question. It’s just as appalling when the government executes the guilty. It is a power so frightening that some of us, and I’m not talking about lawyers, ought to be inspired to defend even the worst among us from it.

And to think, an hour ago I’d have approved the death penalty for operating a leaf blower before noon.

“The pure products of America go crazy,” said William Carlos Williams.

Could the good Dr. Williams have envisioned Johnny Muhammad? Millionaire baseball players? Mobs with thundersticks? Or the spectacle of three or four states in a bidding war to put to death people who haven’t even been brought to trial yet?

DAVID VEST writes the Rebel Angel column for CounterPunch. He is a poet and piano-player for the Pacific Northwest’s hottest blues band, The Cannonballs.

He can be reached at: davidvest@springmail.com

Visit his website at http://www.rebelangel.com

 

DAVID VEST writes the Rebel Angel column for CounterPunch. He and his band, The Willing Victims, have just released a scorching new CD, Serve Me Right to Shuffle. His essay on Tammy Wynette is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on art, music and sex, Serpents in the Garden.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 28, 2017
Mike Whitney
Ending Syria’s Nightmare will Take Pressure From Below 
Mark Kernan
Memory Against Forgetting: the Resonance of Bloody Sunday
John McMurtry
Fake News: the Unravelling of US Empire From Within
Ron Jacobs
Mad Dog, Meet Eris, Queen of Strife
Michael J. Sainato
State Dept. Condemns Attacks on Russian Peaceful Protests, Ignores Those in America
Ted Rall
Five Things the Democrats Could Do to Save Their Party (But Probably Won’t)
Linn Washington Jr.
Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Hiring Practices: Privilege or Prejudice?
Philippe Marlière
Benoît Hamon, the Socialist Presidential Hopeful, is Good News for the French Left
Norman Pollack
Political Cannibalism: Eating America’s Vitals
Bruce Mastron
Obamacare? Trumpcare? Why Not Cubacare?
David Macaray
Hollywood Screen and TV Writers Call for Strike Vote
Christian Sorensen
We’ve Let Capitalism Kill the Planet
Rodolfo Acuna
What We Don’t Want to Know
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of the Electronics Ban
Andrew Moss
Why ICE Raids Imperil Us All
March 27, 2017
Robert Hunziker
A Record-Setting Climate Going Bonkers
Frank Stricker
Why $15 an Hour Should be the Absolute Minimum Minimum Wage
Melvin Goodman
The Disappearance of Bipartisanship on the Intelligence Committees
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS’s Losses in Syria and Iraq Will Make It Difficult to Recruit
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer Bernie Morphs Into Public Option Dean
Gregory Barrett
Can Democracy Save Us?
Dave Lindorff
Budget Goes Military
John Heid
Disappeared on the Border: “Chase and Scatter” — to Death
Mark Weisbrot
The Troubling Financial Activities of an Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate
Robert Fisk
As ISIS’s Caliphate Shrinks, Syrian Anger Grows
Michael J. Sainato
Democratic Party Continues Shunning Popular Sanders Surrogates
Paul Bentley
Nazi Heritage: the Strange Saga of Chrystia Freeland’s Ukrainian Grandfather
Christopher Ketcham
Buddhism in the Storm
Thomas Barker
Platitudes in the Wake of London’s Terror Attack
Mike Hastie
Insane Truths: a Vietnam Vet on “Apocalypse Now, Redux”
Binoy Kampmark
Cyclone Watch in Australia
Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail