" … a land filled with freaks and the home of true knaves?"

The story dries up sometimes. It dries up and blows away, carried by outrage turned inward. Beyond some point, I can no longer smugly refuse to take the endless insult personally. The daily news no longer seems new. It becomes a recursive same old thing, irrational inventions intended to keep everyone feeling off balance. The only defense becomes another offense. Symbolic fences become indefensible walls. Calls for civility sound like cat-calls, chiding, deriding. The whole world seems populated with grudgy eight year olds, perpetually offended, somehow short-changed. This world then seems fundamentally unfair, bounty-hunting the good guys, posting gloating photos of her latest kill. Everybody becomes somebody's shill and everybody knows it, bracing in the crash position for the following unavoidable collision. Pick a fight, lose, then pretend it didn't hurt. Stand tall on pseudo hind legs, proclaiming another victory. A victim's victory, righteousness reinforced by the persistent absence of any discernible success.

The moral of the story seems inside-out. Good guys never win. Charity becomes evidence of great personal weakness. Humility, a symbol of absent grit.
The straight and narrow becomes broad and weedy. Ethics, a dirty inside joke. Everyone's an existential threat, humanity reduced to a zero-sum game. You're either for us or against us and not even fealty will protect you. No enduring us remains except as pending them, today's cohorts can and will turn on you. It's not 'every man for himself' but 'every man versus himself' as the outrage internalizes, no longer satisfied to scratch at the door but aching to gnaw up the floors and shred the wallpaper inside. Go ahead and try to hide once the outrage slips inside. Even your eyes will see only mirror images then, a world projected upside down and backwards, reason herself turned on her head, a self-justifying, seemingly inescapable echo chamber. The same thing repeated endlessly, eventually expecting no different.

The story sometimes loses its noble intentions. It carries a shiv. It seeks soft spots. It seeks advantage, no matter how temporary. The long-run shrinks to include little more than some next move. Strategy shrivels into spare tactic. Skill renders into irrelevance. It dances naked around the subject at hand wearing no meaning, shunning significance as mere ornament. It seeks to show up somebody as wrong, as weak, as most likely evil, the impending cause of the downfall of a society already in ruins, infrastructure ignored into irrelevance. Nobody expects the trains to run on time, the roads to be maintained, or the schools to graduate scholars. Every story becomes a campfire ghost story intended to spook the littler ones, intended to demonstrate dominion over somebody, anybody else. We listen in terror, unsurprised when we feel terrified all over again. Marshmallows reliably burn and fall uneaten into the fire.

Whispering seems like some staged affect. Any quiet voice seems cowed. Even the loudest voices seem to spew only gibberish. We consequently cannot simply converse anymore. We proclaim. We declaim. We seem insistently profane, chuckling at our own cleverness and begrudging others theirs'. We can't listen because we dare not hear. Are we just in it for the money? Just rewards become just (as in merely) rewards, there to be bested in the next rounds. The stakes increase but the payoffs don't, the incremental return ultimately infinitesimal, leaving us squabbling over stale crumbs. Someone reliably wins the lottery and one must play to win, though everyone except that one winner, lost that round. Can enough faith be found to even enter the next round of a game rigged to essentially ensure that you'll be a loser again? Who would want to befriend an orphan like you? Who would dare support your candidacy? Who even wants to rise to the presidency of a land filled with freaks and the home of true knaves?

The story dries up sometimes.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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