Friday, April 19, 2019

Emergencies, Evangelicals & Saluting the Troops

A child was kidnapped in St. Charles, Missouri last week. St. Charles is 200 miles away, but my phone went off like a damn fire alarm. So did yours. It happens a lot, but this time it made me jump. Authorities are alerting concerned citizens to be on the lookout for a silver SUV.

It's heartwarming to know Americans care so much about the safety of children. We revere the unborn fetus, of course. After that, well, it's every toddler for himself. We've cut spending for education, nutrition and social services that would have helped the 15 million children who currently live in poverty. But if one of them gets kidnapped, our phones blow up.

SUV, by the way, stands for Sports Utility Vehicle, a marketing concept thought up by an ad agency representing the auto industry. Everybody knows what an SUV is. 
Be on the lookout. We're all in this together.

Wait, a Silver SUV just drove by. I'll be right back. Could never forgive myself if . . . 

No worries, just neighbors returning from the grocery store. I think they wondered why I was watching them, so I waved.
"Amber Alert," I said. "Silver SUV. Just checking."
"This is a Cross-Over," they said.

Egregious General Anxiety Disorder

I used to tease an office colleague that they suffered from Egregious General Anxiety Disorder (EGAD), which caused them to experience some form of stress and agitation during almost every waking moment. Even their dreams were fraught with harrowing images. 
Luckily, EGAD can be treated with drug therapy. Ask your doctor about Egadizol.
*May increase chances of stroke. Side effects may include depression and thoughts of suicide.

So, why does it feel like we're in a constant state of emergency, even here in the American Midwest, one of the safest places on Earth? You may disagree, but just wait. There have been two mass shootings and a tornado since I started writing this a couple of days ago. Or, here's a simple test: Have you ever seen a flag at half mast but couldn't remember which tragedy was being commemorated? Or . . . 

"Daddy, why is the flag way up high today?" 
"Oh, honey. That's how they're suppose to be."

People are randomly gunned down at schools, restaurants, concerts, movie theaters, stores and churches, most often by angry white men carrying military assault rifles. Mainstream media hesitates to call them domestic terrorists, which sounds almost chummy, as though they wiped down counter tops and straightened the living room before heading out. Let's just call them terrorists. Most of the killers seem like regular Americans. The guy down the street could be kidnapping children and shooting up synagogues next week. 

"I can't believe it happened here," someone will say. 
"He was quiet. Kept to himself."
"No, he didn't. He had crazy right-wing stickers plastered all over his van!"
"Oh, you're right. I was thinking of the other guy last week."

Emergencies bring us together, if you're a glass half full type, which may partially explain our perverse dependence on calamity as part of our national identity. Shared suffering and fear are effective agents of unity even in a politically divided country. But wouldn't you think we'd be pretty damn unified by now? Unity via disaster and mass murder seems to have an abbreviated shelf life.

"Yes, a lot of people died and it is a terrible tragedy, but the community really came together after the tornado/flood/hurricane/mass killing."
"The first responders were amazing, cordoning off the building and caring for the wounded."
"Our deepest thoughts and prayers go out to families of victims."
The implication is that more shallow thoughts and prayers are offered for lesser tragedies.
"Lord, thank you for sparing us from the tornado that killed our neighbors," could be considered a shallow prayer.

If calamitous events revive our sense of community, am I wrong to think the world could really benefit from a fucking asteroid about now? A small one? One that allows most of us to survive and perhaps get our priorities straightened out?

In case you've been too distracted by everything, you should be aware that tornadoes, fires, hurricanes and floods have become more severe than in any living person's memory. No, it's not god punishing us for the existence of Pat Robertson. It's global warming, stupid!
An invasive species has pushed earth's environment to the tipping point. 
We would do more, but it's us, and we're incredibly flawed as a species, apparently. 

Maybe we should do Mother Earth a big favor and go run off a cliff en masse like a colony of lemmings. Maybe that's what we're doing in slow motion and haven't realized it yet.

A Confession About the Troops

At this time, I'd like to make a confession. I'm pretty sure that I'm not thankful enough for the troops, not by community standards anyway. I mostly feel sorry for them. We go overboard saluting the troops because we feel guilty for not really caring more about what they do. Hell, we don't know what they're doing most of the time. Neither do they, I strongly suspect.
I will resist standing at Hammons Field to salute the kid who enlisted as his last best option after being fired from his job at the Dollar General in Ava, Missouri. But everybody must rise during the singing of "God Bless America". Every. Single. Game. 
Since when is the National Anthem not enough? As God is my witness, I will refuse.

The honored veteran, wearing a ball cap and an oddly menacing heavy metal t-shirt with camo cargo shorts, reluctantly waves to the crowd and sits down in the Hero's Chair (Courtesy of Factory Outlet. It's a furniture promotion, silly!).

Then, I look around and realize it's Christian Night. Dear God, help me. Of course it is. If it were Muslim Night, the crowd would be sparse with only a few foreign students from the university. I'm also imagining a Buddhist Night where no score is kept. But in Springfield, Missouri, it's Christian Night at the old ballpark, and the faithful are all about saluting the troops (and Jesus) regardless of context.

Many in the crowd are wearing red promotional t-shirts.  Instead of "Cardinals" in cursive across the front, it's "Christian". Here's a picture. Their faces have been cropped to protect them from possible persecution.

In Springfield, being surrounded by evangelicals is part of life, and I learned long ago to just let it go. My parents brought me into the world as an evangelical. I was saved at age eight at Calvary Temple Assembly of God church on East Grand. It was torn down and replaced by a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market. Honest to God.

Evangelical Christians in Southwest Missouri are among the most judgmental and politically conservative in the country. Evangelical Christians are also the most ardent Trump supporters on the planet. They would send their kids to his university in a heartbeat. They'd buy his steaks. They eagerly swallow all the lies and fear-mongering spewing forth from the Orange Oracle of Angst. They consider him God's chosen leader. Kind of like a secular and profane Ayatollah, who could only rise to power in 21st century America.

Tonight, the Christians at the ballpark don't seem fearful at all, which is strangely heartwarming. This is how it should be. There's really no reason to fear anything, especially while surrounded by people who look just like you. There isn't a Muslim or MS13 member in sight, though there are several silver SUVs in the parking lot. If the Rapture were to happen mid-game, a few of them would be sad to miss the post game fireworks, I suspect, but for the most part, they're having a great time.

As one, they rise to salute Travis from Ava in the Hero's Chair, and I quickly break for a corn dog. Behind me, a church soloist is singing God Bless America. She's backed by a ukelele choir.

Oh, how I've come to loath the proliferation of patriotism checks at every community gathering. I long for the days when troops and police officers stoically performed their duties without forced public deification. Can we not just have a general understanding that we support them? No, we can't, not even at the annual chili cook-off.

"Let's all recognize that we wouldn't be able to celebrate this occasion if it weren't for the brave men and women who so, uh, bravely protect our freedom," says the master of ceremonies.
Really? I think we could. I think we could hold a fucking chili cook-off!

President Trump, who is himself a frequent declarer of emergencies real and imagined, now wants to send direct text messages to the entire US population when disasters strike. AT&T and Verizon are fine with this, by the way, and I read somewhere that the system was set up like Amber Alerts, so we won't be able to block him.

A test of the Presidential Text system was suppose to have happened a few months ago but was somehow sidelined, probably by somebody who has since been fired. If it ever starts, you know our phones will be buzzing at least once a month about some goddam thing: Fake News, Saturday Night Live, Hillary, god knows what. Maybe after re-election he'll get the green light to mass text to all of us. Twitter would be obsolete from that point. We could even get a Presidential Alert on election night.

"I'm still here! Four more years!"

So, if you've had this strange sense of foreboding that something really awful is about to happen, there's good reason. It's pervasive. It's happening. American life, as we know it, is in emergency mode. Level Orange. Be vigilant. 

Also, a kid was kidnapped in St. Charles and may be in a silver SUV. 
Never heard what happened, can only imagine.

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