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From Fear to Sickness

Standing at the Graves of Iraq

by GREG MOSES

So much for the painted word, that quaint theory of visual art where everthing is an attempt to speak. In the closing days of election USA, there is nothing real except fists and balls.

Sure, every song has its lyric and every movie its script, but if we look at the top culture icons assisting our presidential candidates in these final days of votingñSpringsteen v. Schwarzeneggerñwe get a sense of how visceral we need to be.

And bin Ladenñwho is everything the Republicans once asked Willie Horton to beñ speaks, they say, in moderated tones, with gentle gestures of hand. But who cares what or how he speaks? The image of bin Laden alive is enough to provoke a response. Listen to them holler: ìThe bastard is still alive!î

Forget also the wire that Bush wore during that debate. No doubt, it was only a conduit for words. Everyone agrees he spoke poorly anyway, just as everyone agrees that what he said doesnít really matter anymore. How he ìconnected,î thatís what counts. His visceralñhow did it feel pressed up against your visceral in a charged field of cyber-chemical reaction.

In fact, forget any connection that runs from spine to brain. The only connection that plays in the big-time these days runs between scrotum and gut. Why else would Kerry break a shotgun over his arm, dress in camouflage, and walk with dead geese in Ohio (Canadian geese no less).

ìHappy wouldnít quite be the word for it,î said a dutiful reporter Friday evening when asked how the Bush campaign is reacting to the bin Laden video. But how do you put words to the feeling you get when you realize that now again, you own the nationís fears.

So if there is to be dialectic in the next few days, it will have to be located in a counter-visceral terrain, where we can recover our sickness about this messñand fear not.

Excuse me for speaking briefly. News Friday carried an important bit of research suggesting that the Iraqi death rate doubled last year. Thatís about 150,000 more funerals than normal. Women of Iraq have cried at gravesides twice as often as they did the year before. If their children, fathers, lovers, and sons did not all die directly as a result of smashing metal, then they died from distresses that a world of smashing metal brings.

If we could stand witness to 150,000 Iraqi funerals, we might find the sickness that we need. And in that sickness, we might recall caskets we ourselves have been commanded to forget. And so on (there is so much to be sick about). Compared to the fear that the fear mongers are whipping today, I feel that sickness is the healthier alternative for me.

GREG MOSES writes for the Texas Civil Rights Review. Moses contributed a chapter on civil rights under Clinton and Bush for Dime’s Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils. He can be reached at: gmosesx@prodigy.net