The teeth in the smile:
America's karma: Happiness for some paid for by the misery of others
There are those who seek and claim their light by believing in messiahs or philosophies that provide peace no matter what the conditions in the world in which they live. But despite the constant promises of true believers, this type of light is more apt to result in bloody death over semantic differences than it is in world peace when one version of the ultimate truth collides with another.
But on the political level, there is simply nowhere to turn. The world is ruled by guns and greased by bribes, and morality and honesty seemingly have no place in it, except as pathetic pleas from the have-nots begging the haves have mercy on them...lies which are always ignored without the appropriate gratuity.
The greatest hope of all, democracy, has been revealed to be an alluring but deceptive scam, as persuasive patrician propaganda misguides the hordes like a flock of birds whose natural radar has been somehow scrambled, and the masses cheer for mass murder in the same enthusiastic tones they spew when rooting for their favorite sports team.
Personal corruption— the notion that everyone has a price beyond which they cannot maintain their integrity—dooms even Jesus's brand of communism into an exercise of coercion and cupidity, where the cost of maintaining your honesty can easily be your own life.
And the comfort of that ever-elusive benevolent dictatorship on which so many of the religions are based fails miserably on the political level when doctrinal consistency does the death penalty trip on sensible, individual compassion.
So how do we govern ourselves equitably? Are the choices only fascism or anarchy? Is the only question a matter of liberty vs. security? Will we give up everything merely not to be killed by those who wield more power than we can ever dream of?
So it seems in the world of AD 2003, where the powers of material consumption reign supreme and the wistful melodies of harmony and altruism gather mold like obsolete stock certificates in the trashcan of a fast-buck telephone boiler room.
As a society, and perhaps as a species, we are doomed, condemned by our shortsightedness to rip off the quick profit and laugh another day, despite the clear knowledge that the pie plate is almost empty, and one day soon there will be nothing left to eat. And knowing that the feast is almost over only makes us eat faster.
I believe this is called "whistling past the graveyard," and I also believe that this is the time in history when this tune can be heard, almost in unison, being whistled all over the world.
The clock is ticking, and seemingly no one has the sense or the discipline to develop and implement a conceptual chemotherapy than can arrest the tragic spread of the cancer known as the rationalization of human avarice. Everybody's too busy stealing.
Lately I've been canvassing my old friends, many of whom do not know about my recent evolution as a writer. I've been asking them how they felt when they learned the disaster called 9/11 may well have been a political operation engineered by the highest levels of government in Washington.
Because they are my old friends, many of them respond with a genuine fraternal concern. How could you possibly believe such a thing, John?
I ask them what they know about the details of 9/11—if they've even bothered to look into it.
They always say no. It's just too depressing to contemplate. And then comes the clincher. They always say, "I just know my country couldn't do something like that to its own people."
The Trademark American SmileHave you ever heard a clearer sign of pervasive brainwashing? I usually stop trying right at this point. You just can't tell most Americans about this. They shift uncomfortably, and if they're your friends—or those who used to be your friends before you started conversations like this—they merely smile with a feigned compassion that masks an inner panic and an overwhelming urge to run screaming from the room and straight to the nearest hard liquor provider.
They smile fraternally, kind of like the smile you get from a salesperson selling a product he knows you don't need, right after you tell him you don't need it. It's a particularly American smile, one that will never have the cognizance linking American prosperity to dead, dark-skinned peasants.
It is a fake smile that seems to say, "Y'all come back soon." But you know that if you ever do, the door will be locked as tight as the door to reality is locked for them.
I read somewhere recently that a baby learns to smile by emulating the look on the face of his or her loving parent, and by mimicking that facial expression communicates that their relationship is both satisfactory and safe.
I also read somewhere else lately that the first impulse in every laugh is relief that the fear of death has been avoided for yet another instant.
And I contemplate how someone of little power in a Third World country would view an American smiling during a debate while someone tries to explain how his or her own government might have killed a large number of its own citizens merely to increase the prosperity of its own privileged class.
This Third World person would not mimic the smile indicating mutual satisfaction and safety, nor would that person laugh reflexively, indicating that their fear had been relieved. No; it would not be the shape of the lips they would see and respond to. It would be the teeth, and what those brightly polished yet clenched teeth of vacuous and insincere American smiles have done and are doing to the rest of the world.
John Kaminski is the author of "America's Autopsy Report, a collection of his Internet essays. For more information, see johnkaminski.com.
Copyright © 2003 The Baltimore Chronicle and The Sentinel. All rights reserved. We invite your comments, criticisms and suggestions.
Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle and Sentinel content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.
This story was published on October 20, 2003.
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