The Veiled Virgin,” Giovanni Strazza, ca. 1850s

"We inhabit a poor country, one whitewashed over blistered base coat."

Read any history of These United States and you'll learn that we've never been quite as united as we publicly purported ourselves to be. We project our stories out onto a frequently disbelieving world, for the world often sees right through our veil to perceive the underlying dishonesty and naiveté. We believe, after a fashion, though that fashion seems the very Thinnest imaginable fabric. We've mostly preferred to look good over doing genuine good, with self-interest a frequent companion. The recovery from the 2008 market crash produced a predictably thin result, with the bulk of the recovery focused upon repairing the veil, producing another remarkably thin result; perhaps the Thinnest ever. Employment rose to record levels, but so did the number of absolute bullshit jobs and scutty gig work, usually without benefits, providing only a distant appearance of prosperity. A puff of adverse breeze quickly brought down to their knees those inhabiting that house of cards.

Our pandemic defenses, too, were cardboard constructions, long starved of resources in favor of flashier uses.
We might build a wall, for all intents and purposes useless except as a symbol of a strength and resolve we never actually possessed. The wall quickly became another in an ever-lengthening line of follies, its future as certain as the rusty and crumbling Maginot, which will forever remain as an ever thinning monument to vanity or insanity, likely both. Why employ a solid beam when a veneer of particle board, properly painted, might produce a similar appearance? Why invest in anything like the best when most cannot determine the difference between compromise and comprehension? In the long run, we'll all be dead, a cynically sorry exculpatory excuse for shoddy workmanship. Pride lies in laying solid foundations. Shame haunts a shotgun society teetering upon crumbling cinder blocks.

A sorry sort of certainty supported much of our former prosperity. A belief in the inherent superiority of certain classes. A confidence anchored in eternally untested dominion, a negative-space outcome feared but never experienced. Spend too much, 'they' insisted, and we'll bankrupt ourselves. Tear down the barriers to entry and advancement, and cheap labor will price decent people out of their livelihoods. Fear the others teeming around our borders. Maintain this Thinnest of veils as if it were absolute truth rather than an inhibiting ruse. Deny health care but preserve the tax provisions supporting personal jet travel. Throw the insurrectors in prison for the insolence of peering through this Thinnest of veils and properly perceiving what lied from the other side.

The dialect of dominion disgusts me, even though I suspect that it has sometimes benefitted me. They say that they want me to exhibit initiative, though they judge whatever I might produce in response as materially insufficient. When I found myself on the inside, I had to hide my feelings lest they found me concealing my authentic self. I fought harder to stay out of the military than many soldiers ever fought on foreign soil, for I found my homeland foreign then, a hostile, invaded land. I might have fought for another's freedom if I'd felt like I'd inherited my own. I've been on the lam since I turned eighteen, an apparently penitent citizen with a deeply dissatisfied heart. I have been a part of the machine, whether inside it or out, sometimes shouting but most often pouting and powerless. My decency belies the cruelty inside me, buying the products of slave labor and subjugation to maintain the Thinnest appearance of prosperity. We inhabit a poor country, one whitewashed over blistered base coat. We think of ourselves as the richest nation in the history of the world, a designation specifically designed to hide the deep down poverty inside.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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