Honor [Flash Fiction]

Honor. We always do everything for honor whenever we do anything for the state, as the United States of America is mostly and persistently a government of the state, for the state, and by the state. What do we do for culture when we continue to ignore it, abuse it, refuse to understand it, continue to look to media packaging for what we accept as authentic–as if the idea of authenticity in a culture is not in itself absurd. I am not pointing to authentic pastrami or inauthentic pastrami but what kosher pastrami as kosher pastrami had been when it was made by those who lived, it loved it, made it, as life is loved and necessarily so. I want good kosher pastrami; I am not going to pander to that markting ploy, “authentic.” This has crept into the way we identify with ourselves; media packaged authenticities for ethnicities and races, something parallel to stereotyping.

This government of the state and by the state et cetera will certainly never perish, I’m sure. I used to tell friends of mine who had immigrated to the United States that they firstly and fore mostly immigrated to the federal government and not America, that what they saw first was the state and not the country. I believed this then of them, and can continue this argument effectively; the difference today is that this is increasingly becoming true for me as well, a native born citizen, whereby I live in the state more often and more encroachingly than I do in my country, a place where we are expected daily to increase our devotion to the state and to the Public while abandoning all hope of ever recovering the people, a people of the people, by the people and for the people without fear of perishing except through abdicating our responsibility to the people.

Love of country cannot be equal to love of state or love of pastrami; that is, no more than the public can ever entirely be the people or a vat of pickles. In the America I had been raised to love–in the New York I was raised to love, the Brooklyn I was raised in by people I loved–the government was never your friend, and that was something I had also been taught by an ex-Marine father who was yet always faithful. However, it was possible to have a waiter in a Jewish Deli who was your friend, or so you could assume and blow smoke up each other’s ass about, as he gave you extra pickles or had the counter man put a few extra slices of pastrami on the sandwich or make sure the fat was kept off or put on in whatever way you liked, of course friendship was fertilized with tips and so yes money fertilizes in way bullshit cannot.

Moreover, my dad had taught me that in America, the government is just a little bit less the enemy of the people than in other countries, and reminded me, of course, that I would not want to be living in Red China or the Soviet Union, where bureaucracy administered proctology exams take place more often and without vaseline. He also taught me that if you want pastrami you go to a Jewish Deli and if you want lasagna you do not go to a Jewish Deli, although there were plenty of old Jewish ladies with some kind of blue for hair to cover the gray who ordered lasagna at the Kosher Deli because they felt like Italian.

But as I set myself the task of waiting, and waiting, and waiting, amid the many yawning faces here at Central Jury, I wonder how any of the officials I have so far herein seen can expect any one of the people to have respect for the State, seeing how inarticulate these very officials are, ineffective, for sure, as they show–another mumbled roll call, and another garbled announcement, and another non-native speaker murdering my mother tongue–I never ordered tongue at any kosher deli, not after having tried the tongue my mother ordered one day because she actually liked it and in fact ate so many of the things in a kosher deli I can no longer pronounce or have ever tried. I always thought that Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot was the arch-typical representation for waiters . . . a myth for waiters, who are a lot more like Didi and Gogo than anyone anywhere has ever been anytime.

All my time in Paris I did not meet one non-native speaker of French working for the government of France or the City of Paris, or in any capacity we would call official . . . and not one non-native speaking waiter, who all were not as bad as depicted, but then I found the French more charming than most Americans do. I don’t want to be seen as one of America’s reactionaries because I have as much fear of them as I do many of my friends and acquaintances among the educated liberal elite, and there are certainly liberals who are elites in America. But there is something preferable in officials of government speaking clear articulate English, something every waiter at Cousin’s Kosher Deli would have insisted he spoke, haven’t you ever heard English? The many kinds of English spoken, a lot less than kin I could have said, what they said how they said it, although I learned what they meant by what they said when they said it how they did. There is something certainly preferable about getting pastrami in a kosher deli, preferably in New York, or so my prejudice continues.

American politics moreover has been a match of policy ping-pong between entrenched liberal and conservative elites, both sides serving up as an ideal, one or another version of Publius as Populus, nevertheless, Publius first and last and always present beneath the veneer of Populus. These less than official officials are flippant too, and in the buffoonery I see . . . waiting as I do, poor players strutting and fretting their hour on the stage of state–Publius is today a poor actor who is less than organic in his role. Waiting as I do again, waiting as I do some more, longer, longer, longer–and then an old woman smiles and erases the time I have spent. Populus beams and I have hope mostly because I know that this woman is We the People of the United States for if she is not, then I am not, and if I am not, then no one is. Each of us is We the People; each of us must be for it to mean anything. But I’ve been saying this for a long time already, how many years into how many decades I don’t care to count. I’ll say it again because it is a truth I hold to be self-evident, but the self-evidencies of one mind need not transfer to another or any other. Yet, I do not offer this as a rebuttal for the truth of what I say concerning our democracy and what we need to believe to hold it. Democracy is as much faith as it is empiricism, perhaps more so. I do have to believe in freedom. I do have to believe in the preservation of kosher pastrami.


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