At What Price Peace; or, Coming Home to Roost with Coffee and Croissants [a Short Story]


At What Price Peace?

The State in America only pays lip service to the exercise of freedom. Presidents in the State of the Union rarely ever serve more than their image. The State was incapable of respecting in the least the kind of freedom he had once believed was his birth right.

I cannot believe anymore in a President of the people. Perhaps naively in my youth I believed that presidents were capable of what Obama’s most ardent supporters believe him capable of but doubt of this has begun to supplant confidence. Perhaps my mistake was to have taken freedom for granted–how I had done this I am not going say. I am beginning to feel like one of Barnum’s suckers. He went on to say that Washington seems like a Big Tent; Capitol Hill, the White House, other rings.

Will our civil liberties always be present? I did not ask, but considered. The slogan of the ACLU is Because Freedom Can’t Protect Itself . . . Good cause, good slogan. The need for vigilance is constant. But vigilance must come from the people not a lazy public looking for men like President Obama to do it for us.

We saw Bush II and did not like what we saw; we heard Obama and liked what we heard, but hearing is never listening. We might as well shake hands with the devil anytime we let leaders in Washington keep vigilance for us. The only sense of vigilance that our degraded state sponsored education can imagine is one that serves the interests of the state.

It might be something else entirely now, he said, in that we will not think serving the state against the people is such a bad idea. You can always get people to come out in droves to support ideas or measures socially or politically that are not in their interests. The Cave dwellers again rebel against the light of day. We do prefer our shadows to the realities outside our caves. Twitter, Facebook, TV, the mirror, all of them our caves; inside ourselves, solipsists ever.

We have grown too accustomed to a state more increasingly unfriendly, now bartering our civil liberties for a false sense of security. And we do have one, a false sense of security. States for all times, have rewarded publicans and rarely the people. America had once almost become contrary to this. Advertisements rule our sense of the real; psychologists say that the internet has made us even more self-absorbed, more inside ourselves. If that were at all possible. Metaphysics by Madison Avenue.

I do believe we were freer at a time before Reagan and Bush and Iraq one and two, and certainly the post 9/11 world; which is not to say that Bush II was worse than Johnson or Nixon. We were smarter, more literate, better educated and more willing to commit to social change in a tactile not only tangible way. Today, drug dealers, criminals, pop stars actors and actresses all party with the President and we somehow miss what’s happening. We have come a long way from the old New Left, I wanted to say. Even further from the Old Left, I wanted to add, buit did not. Let’s not lament yet, he said after along pause.

It was the old left that informed many of the men I had come to listen to when I was a boy, I knew. My first lessons in American Democracy, politics, freedom, the exercise of liberty, which was never license (a confusion I see popularly spreading) . . . I would have liked to have added, but did not. But then my fantasies of the old left might not be as accurately conceived as they should be, I am certain. Among the old left, I include the Teamsters of the thirties–and I know too many bosses who deserve the Nietzschean lessons from the Geneology of Morals . . . mill stones on the head.

I remember the Revolutionary slogans from the time of our Founding Fathers, someone said. One, I recall, stood out: The Tree of Liberty is Watered with the Blood of Patriots . . . and if I might add, sometimes that of the moneyed and power elites . . . le sange impur. But who gets to say when the shooting stops, or how many is enough? If we choose what we seem to be headed for? Is that what we are headed for? What Reign of Terror is next? The Nazis had their own.

What did Jefferson mean about our obligation to liberty when he wrote in “The Declaration of Independence” that a people desiring freedom are obligated to throw of their chains? What are the inferences to be made in today’s economy and from close examination of power politics? In this America who is there Democracy for? I know that the rich get richer; I know we have a degraded sense of the possibilities of each man’s future riches, mainly because we have confounded possibility and probability. We tolerate the rich because we believe they do something for their money; they are not an idle rich aristocracy, no–but outside of drilling for oil, raping lands, putting protected land at risk of ecological disaster, what then do the rich do?

Goldman Sachs was at the head of the 1929 market collapse and was there again in 2008. And they are Obama’s biggest supporters. Obama is not likely to bite the hand that feeds him–and I do not know if Hilary is the answer because if she were running in the 70s, she’d be running as a moderate Republican, no? You do not think so? How is it we think, anyway–what is it that we call thinking? Epistemology has suffered greatly these last few decades . . . can you imagine, though, this country run by Donald Trump?

I  am still wondering about just how many of us are registered Republicans and how many are registered Democrats, and even in the days of Barry Goldwater, there were a significant number more registered Democrats than Republicans, and I am pretty sure that there are an even greater number of voters who are not registered with either party today when compared with 1964, and Goldwater had the Republican Party nomination fairly sewed up and still he was buried by Johnson in the national election, I guess by the time campaigning came along and the people expected a platform to be built, Goldwater’s polemics did not sell to even those who supported him in the primaries.

Remember, even Republicans and Democrats have different lenses with which they look through at a candidate when he runs against others in his party and then for President. Goldwater’s fiasco was that he was for a short time a big fish in the Republican Party fish bowl, but in the larger pond of the presidential election, he seemed a much smaller and weaker fish. After the primaries, the people are going to expect Trump to be presidential–and he is not, as Goldwater was not. In spite of what you might think; at the time, Johnson was.

I did think of buying a rifle with the stimulus money we got like scraps from the banquet table to a dog.


Through the Woods and to the Store

I have no stale bread to break into pieces, but I know my way and do not imagine I will get lost on my way to the store to get milk, these woods that lie between our house and the store–I could take the road around these woods but it would be so much longer than  the path that has been cut through them probably before the store or the house was built, perhaps? The woods come to the edge of our property, the line of them I see from the kitchen window that looks out back as my Aunt Mae’s kitchen window looked out back behind her home in Pittsfield, out onto the back lawn that extended nearly the length of a football field I imagined when I was a boy to the line of pine trees at the edge of the back of her property, seven of them standing nearly thirty to forty feet high.

I see raccoons from time to time and have to make sure time and again that the raccoons do not make the tool shed out back their home because they would if they could, and I know people who have had them invade their basement–we have not, fortunately. The path I will take to the store is not too narrow, but is not in any way wide. I probably would not want to walk it at night–of course I would not want to at night–and certainly would not want to walk it in the rain, terribly muddy, as it would be, slippery, too.

Wandering into the woods at first when I was a boy in the Berkshires–the woods did not carry the same fear as I had had when first presented with the prospect of entering the ocean at night, swimming at night in the sea, the surf in the dark and the great unknown–it is somewhat the same in the day, but why didn’t the woods have the same foreboding, or instill in me the same sense of foreboding as did the ocean at night–this is easy enough to tell, but there is something of foreboding felt when presented with entering the woods at night, how did Hansel and Gretel face their fear entering the woods . . . and they did meet a witch in the forrest. What was I going to meet when I first thought to enter the woods at a time when I looked for the night light before sleep, and I only vaguely now remember what it was like for me at time when I finally went to sleep without a night light on in the hall outside my room, lighting the way to the bathroom as much as a ward against monsters in the dark.

We are out of milk and I know she is going to want steamed milk with her coffee this morning as she does every Saturday and Sunday morning, caffe latte I make for her with our espresso machine. I like my espresso straight up, sometimes in regular coffee cups halfway full, or in smaller demi-tasse used for espresso as we had in Spain, Italy and France.

Do not expect much to happen on the way to the store. Rarely does anything happen on my way to the other side of these woods, a wooded area we can call a woods, but a forest, although their are forests we call woods. The woods by my Aunt Mae’s were rather extensive, and perhaps in places connected to greater areas of woods equal to what people imagine when they say forests, but there were places when the woods by her home opened, or ended at a golf course, and I forget which one because although it was not very far, at least by our standards of walking then when we were boys on our adventures in the woods during the day, it was a fairly considerable drive by car to the entrance to the grounds that were the golf course that extended from its first hole to the farthest extent of the course’s grounds. I played golf a lot when I was in the Berkshires with my Dad and Uncle Miller.

I go to the store through the woods. I enter from my backyard, and I cross the woods to the store, a supermarket that has a rather extensive parking lot that borders the woods and into which I exit the woods, where I then cross the parking lot and enter the supermarket where I then buy the milk I need and something for later for lunch and some of the croissants they get delivered that are uncommonly good and a great surprise for a supermarket to have.

Caffe Latte with croissants with wild blueberry jam. I am a happy man sometimes–happiness is not a persistent condition or an enduring one, but is now, in the moment, as I feel when I do. She will be happy to which goes a long way to making me happy because she will presumably have no call to transform magically as she sometimes does into a big giant chicken ready to peck holes in my head.

I am in fact so happy with my bread and coffee that I have completely forgotten about how I should want to shoot the CEOs on Wall Street, and how the guillotine was integral to the advance of democracy–no?  At least to unlocking the shackles on the poor–no? At least in enforcing a new hegemony, soon to be co-opted by the bourgeoisie who in turn placed woman in greater chains than she had been in before; the same bourgeoisie that throughout all of the 19th century spent its efforts at reversing any of the gains or the sentiments toward revision that the French Revolution had manifested in the ways of woman’s emancipation.

Stores are places where things are stored; store houses, they could be called. Russians call stores magazines–magazina–what is a magazine but a storehouse of information, pictures, articles, reporting, whatever else in writing there is to include; the magazine of a naval vessel is the storehouse of the ships ammunition, as a rifles magazine is the clip of ammunition used in the rifle or other such weapon. The mind is then a magazine, no? memory is ammunition against despair, or is despair’s ammunition one uses to shoot himself with, no?

I have no intention of shooting myself. In fact, I used to think that the world could be broken into to distinct categories of persons, and the one would be those who could kill themselves and the other the group of persons who could not kill themselves. i used to refine this and make it about those under certain circumstances were the kind of people who could kill another human being and those who could only kill themselves under such conditions . . . those with a propensity to murder and the others having a propensity for suicide.

There was a girl in my elementary school I only vaguely recall ever having existed in my school, my classes–and even now I barely remember what grade it was, although for some reason I imagine that it was before third grade, or was it in third grade–and now I am not so sure if she was in my class, and I think I recall my mother having said something about this, what I am going to say about this girl, now this how many years ago it would have to be decades, of course, when my mother said something about this, the girl–did my mother know her mother from the PTA, very active as she was, my mom–but the girl–were we in kindergarten–I think we were in kindergarten–I barely remember anyone from kindergarten and can only barely recall the girl I imagined I was impossibly crushed on, who was not this girl I am trying to remember because this girl who was five or six or seven maybe eight, no older, hung herself, and I never understood how she was able to, how a girl that age had ever been able to, I could not imagine it, or maybe I could, and maybe I did, and maybe it is possible for any of us at that age to do it, accomplish it, how would someone that young have the wherewithal to go through with it, not emotionally, but physically, how was she able to do it–is it easier for young people, little people to hang themselves?

My Aunt Wendy at the height of her menopause left a table of casual and even friendly conversation with family at her kitchen table to go up the attic of her house to hang herself. I do not think it is possible for me to kill myself, although I do know that I have it in me to kill another person. I have murder in me, I am sure. What else do you want me to say? I would only manoeuvre my way around the possibility of self defense, often in the past waiting until I had to defend myself to over step the boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable defense, but always leaving it at the borderline.

The steamed milk was good with the coffee; even I had some–I made it a small glass pitcher I have thatI bought in a kitchen supply store how long ago now nearing two decades. The croissants were fantastic–and the best croissants we have ever had were not in Paris but in Montreal–absolutely.


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