What happened to the people who live here, in my town, in this green part of the state, to make them so fearful, and so angry? What happened to so many, many of the people who live in this bounteous country? How did they come to believe these things -- that universal health care is Satanic, that the government is going to end Medicare, that immigrants will bring a curse upon the land, that home ownership is the greatest good afforded humankind, and that it's okay to break the law as long as you don't get caught? What happened to these people to cause them to be perpetually disappointed with their elected officials, to be suspicious of their government, to throw bricks at their neighbors' glass houses? And what happens that keeps them at home every election day and so not even lift a single finger to change the system they profess to despise?
What happened to these fellow citizens of mine, with their junk piled up in their yards, and their nasty dogs, and their impossibly big vehicles? What happened to these sallow-faced men who still fly rebel flags on their F-150s, sport 'Tea Party Revolution' bumper stickers, and wear NRA insignia on their clothes? Did somebody hurt them? Did somebody threaten them?
What happened to these people who chuck trash out of the windows of their cars along country roads? Who toss cigarette butts into the lake, beer bottles and soda cans along this woodland trail, who leave spent shotgun shells where they fall? Did somebody trash their dreams? Did someone reject them? What happened to these people who get into fights with grocery store clerks over nothing at all, who slap their babies in the candy aisle, then eat like pigs? Who drive drunk late at night along our winding roads, tempting death? From what or from whom are they trying to escape?
Is it fifty years of television, rightly dubbed The Idiot Box, its constant ape chatter, that finally did them in? Or the Death of God and rise of Self-Help? Is it our broken school system, that teaches children how to be perfect sheep, mindlessly chewing whatever's on their plate, or the siren call of Madison Avenue, the continual cry that more is better, that the one with the most toys wins? Perhaps it's the lurking knowledge that we are only a half-step away from chaos at every moment, so what use is self-control anyway? Or maybe it's the body's laziness, the limits of biological necessity, a primitive nod to the notion that Life is to eat, reproduce and die, even though it's hard to believe.
Is it the greedy Free Market bastards who plumb the private parts of my fellow citizens that drives them crazy, that makes them nuts? Or is it the 24/7 wakefulness that serves no purpose other than to sear their nerve-ends so they buy more drugs? Maybe it's the global economy that has unmanned them, even if the experts coolly tell us different. Screw the experts. Something has done it. Something has happened to these people, something is following them around, snapping at their heels, pushing them ever closer to that knife-edge where anger burbles up and spills over into violence. Something is eating at them.
I can't believe what they believe. But I need to know what happened to them, my fellow citizens, my brothers and sisters. I need to know what devil has gotten hold of their minds and burnt out a hole in their hearts. Otherwise, how will I recognize that devil in myself?