I sometimes wake early on Saturday mornings and head to Hardee’s for breakfast. The food’s all right, but the reason I go is because Hardee’s, in my town, for whatever reason, is where the old men congregate on these Saturday mornings. This is no country for old men, which is a shame, given that so many old men have volumes of wisdom to share, if one merely has ears to hear. And I enjoy people-watching, I have ears, so I go and watch and listen.
As I sat this morning and ate, four old men at a table were discussing the election.
“I don’t like him. Don’t like him.”
“Yeah. Ask me, he’s a spoiled brat.”
“That ain’t news. What about Crooked Hillary?”
“Don’t like her none too much, either.”
“Who was it said, ‘you don’t have to like her’?”
“That’s right. Well, can’t believe I’m gonna say it, but she’s right about one thing: like ain’t got nothin’ to do with it.”
“Oh, Lord, here we go.”
On the five TVs in the building, ESPN played childish commercials about the glory of sport with silly rap songs or overly dramatic music overlaid onto them, as cinematography that rivaled any modern film crafted images of god-like status in the world, if one merely works out, checked their pulse during their morning run, pumped iron, or hurled various objects covered in pig skin. The juxtaposition I found to be interesting: four polite old men no one but myself noticed, likely full of all sorts of anecdotes and wisdom, and five, loud-mouthed black mirrors weaving magic from nothing that amounts to nothing.
“Well,” the old man continued, “it ain’t got nothin’ to do with like.”
“Pass the salt.”
“They gonna bring our food out sometime today, ya’ll think?”
“Ain’t like it used to be. No customer service.”
“No, sure ain’t.”
“Got that right.”
“And I ain’t no guest. I’m a customer. I pay, I ain’t their buddy.”
“I’m just sayin’ that, right now, if you basing this on liking the candidate…”
“I told you, I don’t like neither of ’em.”
“…you ain’t thinking about it, you’re lettin’ them talking heads tell you how to think.”
“Biden’s right! Trumps needs his ass whooped.”
“Between you and me, Trump would wail on that asshole.”
“Biden’s an idiot. Idiot. Always talkin’ nonsense.”
“And that white-haired idiot’s always gropin’ on women. All the time.”
“That’s what gets me!”
“Sermons. We ain’t gettin’ news anymore, we’re gettin’ sermons. People preachin’. ‘Specially women.”
“Oh, it ain’t just women. I know you ain’t on the internet much, but these writers… Lots of ’em men. They preach, too.”
“Biden oughtta take them out behind the shed!”
“Ain’t no world leader or powerful man ever been perfect.”
“Don’t like him. Trump. He’s just a spoiled brat.”
“I remember yo daddy sayin’ the same about you all your life till he passed!”
The conversations aren’t always this interesting, thus this morning’s early rising paid off. As they often are, several of the old men were right. Our Media Monster is the loudest, most obnoxiously self-righteous preacher the world’s ever seen. We’d might as well start building facades around our TV screens that look like church pulpits, for the old opium of theological religion is gone, replaced by the virtual religion of the black mirror; fire and brimstone in the form of sins as numerous and complicated as any old tome of religious rules. In days of old, it was the shedding of blood that led to the remission of sin. In today’s world, it’s the shedding of dignity, of reasonable thinking, perhaps one’s own livelihood, for the sins of speaking out against our new, virtual religion’s tenets and precepts. And the fake god forbid that one actually lives steadfastly in a manner that is contradictory to the dictums of this fake faith in nothing.
In nature, flies buzz around a corpse. Gnats, worms, beetles, and all manner of scavengers make meals out of the last bits of rotting flesh that still surround the bones of said corpse. Depending on who is elected, the Republic of the United States of America has the chance to be propped up for a few more years, so that perhaps the few left in this nation who still bother to use their wits are able to gather resources for the end, and maybe find just a modicum of peace of mind. But the Republic fell into the pit of mob-rule democracy, as the cycle is always the same. And our Media Monster has no interest in pulling the corpse out of the pit, dressing it properly for burial.
The Media Monster, our Nemesis created by our Hubris, like flies, eats away at the corpse, all the while attempting to convince us that smell isn’t death, no, that smell is in our noses, and we are the ones who are fools for bothering to note that pungent odor of death in the first place. And like all civilizations that have reached apex and subsequently fallen into the well, our nation doesn’t shoo the flies away and tend to the body as it should; it listens to the buzzing insects. It just lets them swarm.