Category: America

Living Large

Prior to the dynasty of Bush the Younger, my chief embarrassment about being an American abroad wasn’t that we were a nation of belligerent, imperialist, arrogant bullies. It was that we were fatties. Among the French and Finnish, Dutch and Danish, American tourists were easy to identify, whether or not they wore fanny packs. The...

Perverse Priorities

Sometimes our chaotic, unknowable, seemingly random Universe arranges itself with perfect symmetry. In these moments of bracing clarity, authored by a Creator (in whatever guise or nomenclature you prefer) whose sense of irony is matched only by her/his/its sense of wicked humor, our innate foolishness and learned stubbornness are robbed of their pretensions. We see...

Violence Voyeurism

Outrageous. Horrifying. Disgusting. These were some of the adjectives hurled in the press when news broke that the former world champions of football, the New Orleans Saints, for years had instituted a bounty system that rewarded their players for knocking opponents out of the game. Players contributed to an in-house pool and collected $1,000-$1,500 when...

Cages

After reading Adam Gopnik’s masterful examination of the American prison system in a recent issue of the New Yorker, in which he examines our fetishistic compulsion to warehouse millions of errant citizens in prisons, it’s easy to conclude that our conception of “cruel and unusual punishment” needs reconsideration. Gopnik burrows through the rotten veneer of...

Our Endless War(s)

COMING SOON…THE 2014 MK.com SUMMER POETRY FESTIVAL, JUNE 21-30! First there was “shock and awe.” Then the counterinsurgency, or “surge.” Now it’s “targeted assassinations.” Evocative labels all, making state sanctioned murder easy to accept, if not easy to understand. But does anyone remember why we commit these acts of violence and commit unfathomable amounts of...

Heroic Murderers

At the Super Bowl this Sunday, when most of America will gather to watch our national character accurately represented by a brutal, war-like game (football), controlled by a ruthless, cartel-like corporation (the NFL), selling us mostly disposable, harmful products (automobiles, alcohol, online gambling), you’re almost certain to see an expensive (and weirdly effective) propaganda campaign...

Selective Smelling

Women, those creatures from Venus, assume that most men, particularly boyfriends and husbands, suffer from a malady known as “selective hearing.” Other forms of this pervasive syndrome include “selective memory” and “selective comprehension.” A rough description: When the Lakers score is coming over the radio, a man hears like a bat; when the wife is...

Shopping Our Way to Happiness

Friends are fickle. Family is unreliable. But shopping – now that’s something we can all count on to raise our collective Holiday Spirit. This was the primary message of hope we heard during Thanksgiving, which has gradually morphed into a two-day bacchanal. (Day One, Thanksgiving Thursday, features food and football. Day Two, Black Friday, features...

Sophocles in Happy Valley

The tragic hero, Sophocles taught us, is an otherwise great man (a warrior, a king) with a flaw that makes him perilously human, which is to say imperfect and prone to terrible mistakes that may or may not involve the family matriarch. Thanks to the magic of theatrical drama, we who witness the tragic hero’s...

Occupy Everything

Here’s how a noted correspondent for the London Observer recently described one of the world’s great democratic republics: “[The country] has become greedy, obsessed with commercialism at the expense of any other value or norm, xenophobic, belligerent, and hubristic.” He was talking about modern Great Britain. But sentient Americans reading the unpleasant description surely identify...