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Today is Walt Whitman's 200th birthday. A friend observed it's better he's not seeing what's happened to his country.

Today is Walt Whitman's 200th birthday. A friend observed it's better he's not seeing what's happened to his country. (Photo: cc)

Time Bombs: A Meditation on Walt Whitman’s 200th Birthday

Bill C. Davis

Trickle down theory applies here. America has a death penalty. America has the largest military in the world and in history. America will not stand being crossed. These moments of spasm and orgy are threads in a cultural fabric. Americans have a right to be enraged because of being crossed or challenged or humiliated.

Of course the question to be asked and rarely answered: what prescription drug was this current killer on? Without an answer to that, the basic anthropological truth about human beings is they will strike depending on the perceived depth of a threat or insult. The intensity of the strike is ratcheted up based on a cultural citizenship where the phrase "shock and awe" has become a national cornerstone. It's a phrase concocted because Americans would get it and accept it and in some cases make it part of their interior weapon stash.  

The hardware is always debated. The core nuclear reactor is the subtle and pernicious permission to access this aspect of human nature. Prior to a duel the classic phrase is "I demand satisfaction." This phrase has not been retired in America. It's not pistols at dawn it's a weapon of war whenever. 

One has to assume within these human time bombs is a hiss or a scream of "I hate everybody." Or "I'll show you if it's…the last thing I do." A gun settles scores. A gun satisfies the rage of indignation. There must be a sense of relief as a killer sees his targets fall dead. Is it that Americans feel more of a right to that feeling than other nationalities?  

When we strap ourselves in at a movie we hand ourselves over to the fantasy of killer justice. The antagonist will get either a bullet in the head - or an arrow in the chest and  in a crowded theater—cheers. Each audience member wants to be that person who delivered justice. Above all else - this is how you get justice. Kill.  

Today is Walt Whitman's 200th birthday. A friend observed it's better he's not seeing what's happened to his country. He was a wound dresser during the civil war so he knew what men tend to do to each other. I suppose a war of sorts is in progress here - the enemy gets chosen not by geographical location but by a roulette wheel of sudden psychotic combatants. Background checks? First question. Are you a human being? Yes. Sorry—no gun for you.


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Bill C. Davis

Bill C. Davis

Bill C. Davis was a playwright, writer, actor, and political activist. He has been a contributor to Common Dreams since 2001. Bill died on February 26, 2021, at age 69, after a battle with COVID-19. Bill's Broadway debut — “Mass Appeal,” earned two Tony nominations and became a staple of community theater. Bill wrote the screenplay for the 1984 film adaptation of "Mass Appeal," starring Jack Lemmon and Zeljko Ivanek.

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