You know, it really is funny, these times we live in. The health care crisis takes on interesting dimensions when a bunch of amateurs are making ten bucks an hour to dispense make-shift medical advice in the aisles of Walgreen’s, amidst the pain-killers and the vitamin supplements. Just the other day, I brushed up on seventh grade Boy Scout knowledge when a trio of pre-teen skateboarders ended up in my store with bloody knees, busting out the Curad band-aids and the bactine spray. Hilarious, I thought – but really kind of sinister, don’t you think, that someone with such a tenuous grasp on the American Dream is somehow in a position to dispense non-existent expertise to keep you moving through the grand maw of the global capitalist machine, long enough for you to finish your work week, and hide in your house at night to watch Netflix?
I spend a lot of time with local-time millennials, and what I see frightens me – but now, I think I get it. They live inside their cell phones and their computers, maybe getting out a bit to “chase Pokemon” in wooded groves and graveyards and the Holocaust Museum, but they really live in their heads, and they spend a lot of time inside, because the public square in America today is too expensive – and there are far too many guns and too many fucking people out there with absolutely nothing to lose.
Blame whatever party you want, but the concrete wall of separation between the haves and have nots have created a monster that you simply cannot control. Across California, I have watched breathlessly as the street price point on marijuana is dropping, dropping, dropping to the floor, leaving a generation of mostly harmless counter culture weed farmers consider the metrics on setting up meth labs in the unlikeliest of venues, simply because it’s cheap and easy to produce and people suck it up to deal with the incredible traumatic pain of watching families split apart like loaves of fresh baked bread – and from watching a nation state split up the spoils of transnational capital profit machines purchased with the taxes from their meager wages. Who built this? We did – and we are paying for it everyday as everything that was good about America (maybe) falls apart as we make sure that anyone below the one percent is basically just a zombie via overwork, underpay, supersonic bad drugs, and so much screen time and chaos.
He walked into my store and walked directly to the cash register, on a drunken roll with ratty shorts hung low on his hips all gangsta-styley. Lightly skinned black, holding a forty of Modelo half finished and open, and I froze too fast to be able to say, uh, sir, you can’t bring that in here. I didn’t see a gun, but I felt it, and I felt like I was about to have one stuck in my face. Instead, he slurred that he wanted a swisher sweet, and I couldn’t remember what it was, where it was, and when he pointed i saw dozens of flavors and i only knew i would give him whatever he wanted if he would just go away. It was a 1.29, and he handed me a dollar and then tossed some change on the counter and walked out the door, alarm buzzed on but I said nothing at all.
I remonstrated myself after he was gone, even after a lifetime of being held up by knives and guns in this violent fucking wasteland of a country that anyone dares to say is “great!,” even after being raped by a man of color in Malaysia, even after being roundhouse kicked in the face by a very angry Thai in the middle of the revolution in Bangkok – by thinking, you just thought he had a gun because he was black, that’s internalized racism man, that’s so uncool, just cause he was drunk and slurry, you’ve done it too, somewhere, at some point, been drunk in a pharmacy needing a cigarette, man, you gotta work on this, your internalized sexism, your internalized racism, your internalized classism – and there I stopped, actually, honestly, because the only thing that has kept me going my whole life, to be perfectly honest, and to have not been completely swept up by the white trash nation that is growing so much faster than my class of birth can imagine – the only thing that has kept me going are the values of the class of my birth, the notion of noblesse oblige even if I no longer qualify, the notion that “to much is given to you and much is expected of you,” and even in my worst hours of drunken mayhem and traumatized high-jinks, i have done what i can with what i have to be of service to others in ways that I will not bother to itemize for you now – you might not understand, and quite frankly, my road is my own and i don’t give a damn what anyone thinks of me and what i’ve done with my life, my nefarious plans are transparent on the open internet by design for you to follow the pieces and make of it what you will.
The police arrived later…someone called them. He’d been hassling people in the parking lot…there was a chase…in my haze of trying to stay friendly on the register and not think too deeply about what i had experienced and how it twisted me into knots about what i can and will not tolerate for the sake of a lousy wage that just might threaten my health benefits for a country too rich to care about its people because it’s too busy fighting the wars for the corporations that rape us – don’t you just love how Europe loves to talk about how socialist and sophisticated they are, when its our fucking dollars that built the NATO that keeps them from tearing each other apart like savages like they did for centuries before the Marshall Plan? – who should we invade next, big fuck you on that piece of shit rhetoric Michael Moore, go sit on your billion bucks and sit this one out, thanks for calling it for Trump in November, that’s a done deal now and you can thank a bunch of ball-less turds at the DNC for that sudden cakewalk – no one asked me anything, and i stayed out of it, but some lady came in terrorized that she thought he was going to take her hostage when he ran… it was never conclusive that he had a gun, but by the time i asked I was in a tailspin…i could see the lights of the 5150 room at Dominican Hospital spinning in my head as i excused myself to go to the restroom and start to cry, texting my manager to tell him, no, no more night shifts, i’m too old and too feeble and i can’t handle the sketch and i love myself and walgreen’s is a lovely company but…no.
Who did this America? We did. Because for such a long long time, we never saw anything but a future that never arrived. And now that the future that dystopia envisioned is here, we cling to false hopes and false promises and “sorta okays” and absolute demogogues because we thought we could hide in our little shells and forge another path without coherence, ignoring the Noam Chomskys of the world and his inconvenient truths – and now, my friends, come November, the empire that invaded the world is going to invade Washington – and by then, motherfuckers – everyone will have a gun.