"The insane are always mere guests on earth, eternal strangers carrying around broken decalogues that they cannot read."
— F. Scott Fitzgerald
"We are accidents/Waiting to happen."
I wasn’t trying to play beautiful music, I was confronting my audience with the awful, visceral sound of what we all knew was the single absolute of our frail existence—one day an aeroplane would carry the bomb that would destroy us all in a flash. It could happen at any time…
On stage I stood on the tips of my toes, arms outstretched, swooping like a plane. As I raised the stuttering guitar above my head, I felt I was holding up the bloodied standard of endless centuries of mindless war. Explosions. Trenches. Bodies. The eerie screaming of the wind. I had made my choice, for now. It would be music.
Nicholas Confessore, “What Makes a College Good?”, The Atlantic, November 2003.
Compare and contrast with Southern Utah University, where the Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Science “suggested” that I raise the overall grades of students in my freshman composition courses, and caved under the threat made by a student who failed the course to enlist her lawyer father in suing the university for a passing grade. The English Department of SUU includes in its faculty a poetry professor who achieved tenure with a self-published chapbook cited as a “publication” (and whose actual published work largely appears in church magazines), a former chair who has published bigoted denunciations of homosexuals and gay marriage in right-wing journals (This same chair accused me of telling my students that all of my colleagues in the department were “addicted to pornography,” a story he heard at his church.), and a tenure-track professor who assigns dioramas as final projects in upper-level literature courses. The motto of SUU, perhaps coincidentally, is “Learning Lives Forever.”
And what does the world see in this video? Where does the YouTube story begin? The world sees a black prisoner lying face-down, inert, helpless, racked with pain, struggling just to take the next breath, moaning in a way *urrrrrrrunh* no human being ever moaned before, under arrest at the mercy of two Cuban cops. One of them is mounted on the prisoner’s back, flashing a cruel thirty-two-tooth grin as he delights in the prospect of breaking his prisoner’s very neck with a full nelson. The other one is crouched barely two feet from him, ready to blow his brains out with a .44-caliber revolver. Both of them are humiliating their black prisoner, mocking his manhood, calling him a subhuman moron. Is there no limit to how abusive these two Cuban cops are willing to be toward a black man who, so far as the viewer knows, has done nothing? … And that is the way the YouTube version *begins* … and, very likely, ends.
No indication whatsoever of the life-or-death crisis that precipitated this vile “abuse,” not so much as a hint that this put-upon black man is in fact a powerful 250-pound young crack house thug, nothing to make it at all credible that he might have touched off the whole thing by wrapping his huge hands around the Sergeant’s neck, that he was within one second of murdering him by crushing his windpipe, that his life was saved only by the immediate reaction of Officer Camacho, who threw himself onto the brute’s back and, weighing only 160 pounds, clamped a couple of wrestling holds onto 275 pounds of crack house thug and rolled in the dirt and the dirtballs with him until the brute became utterly depleted in breath, power, willpower, heart, and manhood … and gave up … like a pussy. How could any man pretend not to realize that, faced with death, even a cop experiences an adrenal rush immensely more powerful than all chains of polite conversation and immediately seeks to smother his would-be killer with whatever vile revulsion comes surging up his brain stem from the deepest, darkest, most twisted bowels of hatred? How could any man, even the mildest and most sedentary, fail to understand?!