I wake up each morning, least that’s the plan, fire up the tired espresso machine and read about death. It’s a life-long habit. The reading ritual, not the death or doom-scrolling.
It used to be the local paper had news but Postmedia put an end to that. Hence I have become a gadget junkie and religiously skim Google News, the Times, CNN and the CBC. The sharp contrast between our national network and the U.S. providers is the body count.
Though the last few weeks have brought a touch of good news: Trump’s imminent demise, the payback for the greed inherent in Bitcoin, hardcore Musk and Twitter on the edge – the top of the daily tide of news involves a variety show of homicide and disaster. In America the beautiful there are daily mass shootings in every hamlet. Also stabbings, murder by subway cars and four-wheel cars, beatings, burnings, stranglings, hackings, disappearances, burial, explosions and, well, Americans are an ingenious people and they find myriad ways to destroy each other.
I read as I chew through my toast and eggs and my blood pressure climbs, my mood sinks, my sanity begs for a time out. But I can’t. I’m addicted. I imagine it’s like a gambler’s high, waiting for the next card and the one after that. Each card, each story comes with a low-amp jolt.
I see a picture of a smiling young woman and I don’t read the story or even the head. I know she’s missing or dead. It’s the same story every day, some days several times, only the means and culprit(s) vary. And the victim count.
The iPhone/drone war in Ukraine has added variety to the corpses and the ways and means, as well as the language. I hear conversations between soldiers, soldiers and their families, liberally spiced with “fuck and fucking.” I can verify the piles of bodies of one nation or another through the majesty of the iPhone. Can even see drone video of tanks full of young men immolated. Goes well with smoked bacon. Maybe culinary poison offsets psychic toxins.
My sick habit of imbibing cauldrons of violence under the rubric of habitual news reading is part curiosity and fascination leavened by what may well be personality disorder. Give me another jolt of that ultra-violence, flavoured with disbelief. Is this really happening? And why can’t I stop looking? I avoid violent movies but the real thing has me by the throat.
The U.S., no apostates there, trusts in God and one day God must’ve said, “Let there be guns,” and Glocks and AR-whatevers appeared in pockets and trucks, kitchen drawers and bedroom closets. He also proclaimed, it is said, “Thou shall not kill,” but that message appears lost in the fog of cordite and the sheen of brass.
There are minds far better than mine working hard at keeping me addicted. Each story’s display designed by an algorithm for maximum adrenalin and spurts of horror and, of course, ads, ads, ads. The Internet news aggregators are there to seduce you into clicking on something they know will suck you in. If you ever looked online at a barbecue, a bike, a recipe for linguine, or dropped mention of an interest in stamp collecting in your G-mail, your news feed takes on that old come-hither look. “Now that you’re enthralled by the latest misery, don’t you want to click and see that shiny electric drill/ constipation cure/Beretta 9 mm/teenager in a bikini/ what she looks like now?”
Decisions, decisions. Peruse the daily carnage and ravings from white true believers and their fellow lunatics or escape into “25 of the Best Places to Retire?” I inevitably opt for the non-fiction versions of Die Hard, despite there being no heroes. It’s where the action is. It’s what the advertisers are serving. It calls to me and I’m as powerless as an alcoholic staring at a full shot glass.
Tax cuts and inflation, fuel costs and pandemics can’t compare to the hypnotic accounts of box stores and nights clubs and children’s schools turned killing grounds. Partying or shopping, learning or playing, a nation practices how not to die in a mass-shooting, just as we practiced hiding under a desk while the USSR and the USA were taunting each other with nuclear missiles.
Cops who have no problem shooting and assaulting Black people of any age seem to get the vapours when they have to stop white men using children for target practice. Instead, they stand in cop regalia behind microphones telling us they’re full of prayers and they’re investigating, looking for a motive.
Motive? “He was having a bad day.” “He wasn’t toilet trained.” “He has no friends.” “He needs attention.” “He hates gay/Black/Brown/men, women of every colour.” “He hates himself.” “He hates life.” “He has no life.”
Motives for mass murder are a fantasy, a way to pretend the problem is reparable. It’s not.
The country is terminally ill, so sick a hundred million or so believe they will be replaced by “the 13” (Christian nationalist social media and Fox readers’ code for Black people or “George Soros and his friends” (code for the two per cent of the population that is Jewish) that are plotting to take over the other 340 million Americans when they’re not preoccupied with sodomizing children in pizza restaurants with Hillary Clinton and the rest of the Democrat “groomers.”
If there weren’t so many pools of blood to go with the pools of tears, it would be Monty Pythonesque.
I tell myself, I tell my partner, “That’s it, I’m done. I’m not reading this anymore.” The intentions are good but the will is weak. I’m powerless over my obsession to check if the Dumpster has died or been indicted. Let him be martyred by the poor he toyed with like a cat with a mouse and the monied whose pockets he lined and the fascists he encouraged. That will pass.
But, until then, my inner debate rages. Do I or don’t I? Maybe I can stick to sports. How does one turn away? How many wasted lives does it take to sate the incomprehension and horror? Is one a citizen if one disconnects from the world? Can one stay sane and be connected? All I know is I push a little inverted dimple or press a few keys and the screen lights up and I read. And read. And read.