This piece stems from a conversation I had with my cousin about his time in the Middle East. I wrote this as a way of coping with the information he gave me. And I wrote it to read at Dixon Place, March 12th, when I read with Rami Shamir. The morning of March 12th, news headlines broke the story about the lone soldier that had gone and assassinated 16 innocent Afghanistan civilians. The civilians were living within a mile of a U.S. Military Base, believing the U.S. Military was there to keep them safe. Nine of the victims were children. The soldier shot many point blank in the head and then set their bodies on fire. For them, I write this and continually mourn. And I write this for my cousin, rest your young and weary bones and look to the light, I love you.
I would like for the world to join and help me carry a burden.
A grave and dark secret I would like not to be a secret
It’s a burden we all share for we are all here and we should all be aware that there are great atrocities happening.
And I don’t have the answers but I would like for you to understand that I have a cousin that I grew up with, when we were children he would come and stay with my family and we loved him like he was a part of our nuclear family. And he grew up poor and he grew up fast and his father believed in the military and his father pushed him to join and because my cousin didn’t believe he had a future, he listened as his dad indoctrinated him into believing in Regan’s speech that the only way for there to be peace is for everyone else to surrender to American might and my cousin is part of the muscle we flex every single day.
My cousin and I spoke about his time in the Middle East and he explained that a gentleman never tells how many people they have murdered during war.
But he did tell me that he does look into the faces of those he has murdered.
He explained, “Don’t worry, I laid waste to plenty of godless heathens…”
He told me he picks up their heads and looks at their heads as trophies.
And he fought off a starving dog that was trying to eat the brains of one of the freshly murdered Hajis my cousin says must all be killed.
He said, “It’s jungle rules brother, only the fittest will survive and I can pierce the flesh of the Gods…”
I grieve to think someone so close to me could ever think such racism; such horror is cause for celebration.
And I tried to tell him that he’s traumatized.
No young person should ever have to think such thoughts nor be put in such a situation.
And it’s not his fault.
If we lived in a world in which people didn’t have to worry about trivial things like food and housing that really aren’t so trivial but really we have enough food and housing to make sure everyone could be comfortable.
Maybe if we didn’t make the health care industry a for profit industry, maybe if people didn’t make money on someone dying of cancer, maybe then my cousin wouldn’t have felt like the only way to exist was to become a monster.
And I want to scream.
I want to scream because this knowledge is permanent.
The deaths he called into being have scarred him and the families of the dead and now they’re all I can think of, I can’t see beyond my cousins smoking barrel.
I can’t see a way out of this as I know he’s going to continue to perpetuate this extreme assault on love and everything I have given myself wholly to.
I want to scream because maybe then people will see that I’m waving an intergalactic flag for help and whether it is us or aliens or god that saves us from this extremely stark reality we have been so overcome by, I do not care, I just want, no demand, that my cousin and all of his brothers and sisters in stripes become so enamored, so overwhelmed by the goodness of love that they are able to overcome this trauma that has replaced their minds with an endless void with no window to escape out. And in that darkness in which they see themselves as gods, as masters of war, there is no truth, there is no walking away from this clean and youthful with a sprightly air.
After learning this it’s hard to feel okay or maintain any sense of joy about all the time we spent together.
I don’t know if I can perform any action that is not concerned whole heartedly with mourning.
He was this little kid that’d sleep in my bed and beg me to take him to the beach and teach him how to surf, or take him fishing, and he always complained when we didn’t catch anything, and I’d put him in headlocks the way his half-brothers had done to me, before they moved away to live with their mom in Utah and I helped him understand why his family was broken because we were boys, children, and that’s what we believed children do and we wrestled and caught snakes and lizards and we locked them in cages because I didn’t yet understand its more beautiful to watch a lizard bask in the sun on a rock or to see a snake scurry away free and I didn’t then know freedom like I now know so I couldn’t teach him.
But I was there when he found booze and later weed and blow and he learned to fight but he wouldn’t fight me he’d just tell me the stupidest stories and I just told him, “I love you buddy”
I was always his “hero”, the person he looked up to, his older cousin, the person that he loved, that he trusted, that inspired him.
And he is a murderer. His act is a crime against humanity
And I feel like I caused these murderers, because I didn’t teach him.
And now, this murderous reality, this memory of fighting a dog for brains, for a trophy to show the grandkids as we reminisce about killing.
Someone pull out a megaphone and tell the world, “We are here to kill you! We are here to kill you! We are here to kill you!”
And my cousin is not alone.
He’s not the only one.
We’ve pissed on the dead, we’ve burned the Holy Koran, we’ve made a cartoon of Allah, praise be his name, we’ve told a whole country of people that we want to free them and then we sent our psychologically wounded children to their doors with guns.
Children that have only known how to hate, children we neglected, children we told must learn how to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.
We gave them guns and pointed our fingers at a group of impoverished people and we labeled them terrorists and our children couldn’t understand their religions and customs so they shot them.
And pulled off their heads, and fought dogs for the brains because they wanted every bloodied membrane, and they held them high and delighted and said, “Look! Are you proud of me yet?”