“And I Laugh”

From “The Truth”

And I Laugh

There’s a photo on the Internet that makes me laugh. A little brown boy holding a silent scream forever in four-color.

Ha.

The horrified little fellow now has no arms or legs, or brothers, sisters or parents, and I laugh out loud.

I laugh at the Marines, being all they could possibly be in God’s creation, at their tough-man commercials.

The Army of One. What a hoot.

The rough-guy coaches and players who let this boy die—what comedy watching them feel strong while letting the real battles be fought by little guys with sticks and bicycles.

The boy has a bandaged head. He looks so scared his hair might turn white, as in a Hitchcock film, and it sort of makes me chuckle.

I laugh at the ministers here in town and here on this TV saying bless our troops as they defend our freedom.

I laugh at the well-schooled and coifed newspaper columnists with their earnest close-cropped photos in four hundred papers read by forty million people in forty million cities.

And I laugh.

The boy is flat on his back on dirty cement, with his stubs hastily wrapped in Ace bandages, surrounded by the world trying to get a look, by photographers and people on their way to work and out to dinner.

We are nothing. Nothing. Nothing!

Because this boy now has no arms. No legs.

Nothing we do today will mean a thing because we have ripped the arms and legs from this boy as if he was a fly and we are us.

This boy who could be my boy, lying there at the feet of the world and the world looking the other way.

Goddamn us.

Please.
Give us what we deserve.
If you are a just God, rain down fire and hell upon our heads. Lighting bolts upon our backyard decks and rivers of excrement down our smooth, well-scrubbed streets.

Please, dear God we pray.

When I awoke this morning I thought it essential to the world order and being right, and a good person, that I shave, help out with the dishes, be on time, and drive on the right side of the road.

Do a good job. Be pleasant. Smile.

But now I just can’t stop laughing.

The world thinks it still matters, and that’s kind of funny in a way.

There, the flag flying over the Catholic elementary school and the yellow ribbons tied to the light poles on both sides of Main Street.

Stray cats wearing yellow ribbons around their necks, roaming the night, looking both ways before crossing the street, as if it mattered.

You are never so wrong as when you damage a young boy.

We sit down here like the Who’s in Whoville celebrating the coming of War Season while this boy lies on the cold floor.

Tee. Hee-hee.

—   by Mike Palecek, from The Truth