“Your messianic thoughts led you inexorably to this day,” said an articulate mercenary binding my hands with plastic cuffs, a bit tight for my taste.
“Things will always be too tight for your taste,” he said, displaying an alarming clairvoyance. I shook my head as it dawned on me: there was nothing supernatural involved, the chip was transmitting directly to the network and all he had to do was smile and repeat my thoughts aloud. A parrot correctly outfitted could do it, although, in fairness to the mercenary, not develop those massive biceps.
We dream when we are young of freedom to attain the things we dream about. There are higher impulses that it just seems right will prevail.
“Right,” said the centurion, bored, pushing me forward now, “righty-Oh.”
I suddenly found myself thinking of terrible things few caring people care about, in a stream: the doomed children of the poor my mother correctly scolded me are an obsession of mine, unjustifiable state violence, thousands killed by secret American death squads in Viet Nam under the Phoenix Program, on suspicion of being enemies of democracy, circumvention of American law after 9/11 to blur the lines between covert and clandestine operations, eliminate the requirement to disclose covert assassinations to Congressional committees and allow for new American death squads to operate secretly in as many countries as unaccountable persons appointed by the president deem necessary to protect our freedom here at home.
I suddenly had the image of that young man in Ferguson, Missouri who had been shot to death back in 2014. His large body, lying in the street for hours while they dug up evidence of why he deserved to be killed, shot so many times even though unarmed. The National Guard was called in, anti-riot squads, tear gas, tanks, “we will control the angry crowds and protect private property by any means necessary,” vowed the governor, echoing Malcolm X grotesquely.
“The governor didn’t say ‘by any means necessary’, jerk-off,” smirked my captor, nudging me forward.
A video of the large young man committing a misdemeanor, stealing cigars, shoving a tiny clerk, not long before the policeman confronted and killed him, was soon released and shown repeatedly on every TV station. Perhaps, it was theorized, the unidentified cop knew he was dealing with a dangerous criminal, confirmed when the kid possibly used the f-word to the policeman, or even the explosively provocative n-word to a plainly white man. No white man should ever be expected to abide being dismissed as a ‘nigger’, especially by a black kid. Who could blame the large cop for his rage, for pursuing the wounded kid fifty yards, already shot, and making sure he was dead?
Why this image came into my head, I cannot say, but I saw the photos as they’d been shown on the news: the white officer with his close cropped hair, the black teenager with a motor board on his head, a high school graduate who would never need to buy books for college.
When a grand jury declined to prosecute the police officer, let all the facts come out in a trial, they seemed to have decided the peace officer had already suffered enough. The riot squads were called back in, instead of 1,000 mediators, peace makers, a commitment from the government to demilitarize civil police forces, do something about the disproportionate police killing of young black men and find solutions to long-standing racial problems it pretends no longer exist.
“Yes, I know,” said the mercenary, helping me along now with the muzzle of his gun, “we are a society that uses deadly violence to answer every question. Given the choice between protecting human dignity and protecting private property we always choose the latter. It’s sacred. Do you have any more questions, sir?” The expression on his face was so sincerely quizzical that I almost asked him about L. Paul Bremer.
“Nobody cares about L. Paul Bremer,” the soldier told me. “Yes, he fucked everything up in Iraq after the perfectly executed Shock and Awe campaign freed Iraq from a modern day Hitler. His first idiotic error was Order 1, the de-Baathifcation. Sure, it was stupid, in hindsight, or even with average foresight, to fire thousands of doctors, teachers, nurses, civil servants because they’d been forced, by Saddam, to be members of his political party as a condition of their employment.” He looked at me thoughtfully, and I could see him further considering what I was thinking of asking.
“Order 2 was an even bigger disaster, I’ll grant you that. Disband the Iraqi army making 450,000 trained soldiers suddenly unemployed and without pensions in a country where an occupying power was breaking down doors, taking people to be tortured in Saddam’s former torture prisons, where the power grid had been destroyed by American bombing, where hospitals for the masses of wounded and sick were understaffed as a result of Order 1 that fired the best doctors, nurses and administrators in Iraq? Big fucking mistake, huge mistake, unless your aim was to create an insurgency. I grant you all that, sir, now just keep moving.” This time the muzzle of the gun pushed me a bit more emphatically.
“And was Bremer a complete asshole to issue this statement to the suffering people of the Iraq that he was busy anally violating in ways no less brutal than his predecessor, Saddam: We are going to fight them and impose our will on them and we will capture, or if necessary, kill them until we have imposed law and order upon this country? Granted, granted, granted: complete asshole. But Bremer retired soon after to a lavish estate and hid what might have been, to a lesser man, his shameful failure at a variety of luxury properties he and his family owned. I mean, hasn’t the man suffered enough?”
And, truly, why was I even thinking of these things as a cross was waiting for me across town? To my left and right I could see others, already crucified, writhing as they tried to die. Mercifully, their vocal cords had been severed to minimize their expressions of suffering. If you lead a life that takes you, inexorably, to your execution, have the decency to at least…
The butt of a rifle, expertly deployed, made my chip fall silent.