The River

Thursday, May 13, 2004

What is America?

(Interior, office building, fluorescent ceiling lights, gray cubicles. Bruce sits in cubicle in front of computer, lost in thought. On the blank Word document on the computer monitor in front of him appears the word “ring.” A second later, his cell phone rings.)


I’ve been looking for you Bruce. Do you know who this is?



The South African blogger?


But….you were taken away during the Apartheid wars.

That is the official story, yes. But nevermind, Bruce. You’re in trouble. I’ve been watching you Bruce. I’ve been down this road before. I know exactly where it ends, and I know that’s not where you want to be.

But…what do I do?

Right now, dive into the empty cubicle across from you.


Do it. Now!

(Overhead shot: Bruce lunges across the hallway between cubes. Crouching, phone jammed against side of head.)

What is this all about, Golby?

To save you, Bruce, to save you from dull conversation with the coworker who is doubtless approaching your cube this very minute, cup of coffee in hand.

(Bruce peeks out to see coworker, cup of coffee in hand, looking quizzically into his empty cube.)

How do you know all this?

Intuition, predictability of it all, lots of reading progressive sites, because I care.

That allows you to see my world?

Oh, the cowoker…lucky guess, Bruce.

That is some intuition, especially from all the way over in South Africa. You are in South Africa, aren’t you?

I don’t know, Bruce, am I? Maybe I am, maybe I’m not. Maybe I’m both here and there. It’s this ability to imagine that connects me to you, Bruce. It’s why I’ve called. There’s a question, Bruce. It’s been haunting you. It jumps out at you in the lyrics of pop songs, in random signs on the roadway. You feel it like a splinter in your mind.

What is America?

Yes, Bruce. The construct. I’m in it with you, you are in it with me. Everything is being narrowed to one bland product. Greg Brown nailed it: “there'll be one corporation selling one little box/it'll do what you want and tell you what you want and cost whatever you got.” It’s the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth. America is the land that pumps it out, produces it like a 24/7 Superbowl halftime show, watches over it like a security camera in the sky.

The truth is, Golby, that I’m proud to be American.

Yass, you’re proud to be American, Bruce, as I am to be South African. It’s what we are. It’s good and it’s natural. But there is a wider culture, Bruce. There is a world to which you belong and for which you stand -- when you do finally, really stand -- as a representative. But the construct, Bruce…are you sure you want me to continue?

What? Is this like the red pill question?

Exactly. The construct has you Bruce. You loosen its grip when you see a true blues artist perform at the Northside Tavern, you feel it drawing you in when you join the morning commute on the highway. You knock it down when you pen a strong post, you feel it rise when you express fear and helplessness.

But….why? How?

Ignorance, Bruce. Acquiescence. But you’re different, Bruce. A seeker. Are you sure you want me to continue? Do you want to see how deep the rabbit hole goes?


Imagine Bruce, just imagine it. Front page news. Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, all telling the American people that it was never Islamic fundamentalists, that their own government murdered 3,000 people on September 11 so that they could launch a global war – with you as one of the enemy. What, then, would happen? Mayhem, Bruce. The control program would be irreparably broken.

Except it won’t happen. TV will never tell them. The revolution, Bruce, will never be televised.

Ask yourself why the Patriot Act was conveniently ready and hustled into place while normal people were in shock. Why your leaders were so ready with the story line, uttering their “us and them” messages immediately, wasting no time shoring up your shaky ground with a war footing. Is this a democracy Bruce? Were you consulted? I think not.

In a sense, Bruce, you are already a prisoner of war, held in captivity through terror. As much as you can stand. Applied judiciously, continuously.


I’m sorry, Bruce.

But…the mall, the happy music, the ads….

No product will save you, Bruce. But there is a way…

The blog?

Yes, Bruce. The blog, for now. It all comes back to the blog, many a post does, anyway. And this one is no different. In one life, you’re a writer for a respectable telecommunications firm. In another you’re a blogger who goes by the alias “Bruce” and who has broken every law they truly care about. Only one of these has a future.

But, the pay…there isn’t any.

I didn’t say this was going to be easy, Bruce.

And this will save humanity from America?

Yours, Bruce. Yours. But we are connected. I’m counting on you, Bruce.

No pressure or anything…

I’m sorry, Bruce. I know this is a lot to handle. Stay strong. Eat well, sleep well, love well. It’s the only way, Bruce. Now that coworker should be coming back by in a minute. Get on with your day. Enjoy her presence. She may be unaware, but that’s not her fault. Keep it simple. Don’t judge. Share what you know in your heart. We’ll talk more later.

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