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Letter from America December 13, 2001
Everyhing Has Changed
By Mark Ames Browse author Email

It happened so quietly and so suddenly that no one in America has yet officially recognized it. So you're gonna hear about it here first, in Moscow's Only Alternative.

'Member that whole terror thing, how it had changed America forever, made its great citizenry rethink their priorities in life, pile into churches, hug their children, learn watercolor painting and all that? Welp, guess what. That bad trip is over. America is back to being the same old disgusting mall of shallow humanity that it always was... only worse. That is the real story of America's victory over terrorism: we're now a thousand times meaner and sleazier than ever before, and like some alien species, our dark side is only growing stronger by the hour.

I didn't become aware of this until a few weeks ago. I'd just emerged from my second floor apartment after a violent 7-day glass binge. It was my last week in Louisville, just around Thanksgiving, that most loathsome of American holidays. I was glued to my computer desk the entire week, firing off about eight hundred thousand e-mails to people I barely knew. The hairs on my ass were matted and mangy by the time I finally peeled myself from the cheap chair. Kkhhwwheep!

I lived on Rubel Avenue, a border strip wedged between the white trash Butchertown and the Highlands, Louisville's art-fag quarter. Art fag, I suppose, because on Bardstown Road there are a couple of alternative record stores, including one called "Ground Zero" with the inevitable cross-hairs and bomb icon to indicate a fake pro-violence ideology, even though all the wispy hairdos inside Ground Zero would scream if you so much as flashed a cheeseburger at their faces.

I took a "last walk" on my usual route, past the lonely old dog kept in the narrow backyard of the Mexicans up the street, past the Vietnam Veterans' house with its Friday Catfish Fry-outs sign, past the old gray house with all the lounging mullet heads who always seemed to be working on the same old Buick... then onto Bardstown Road.

Every building is two-storied and turn-of-the-century, the 19th century that is. Storefronts were too haphazardly arranged to be quaint or pretentious. There were Irish bars and pizza dives, Omar's Gyros (which kept a low profile) and a weird little scam shop selling low-rent Amway kits for air purification. "Earn up to $1,000 a week!" the hand-written sign on the window proclaimed. Farther down Bardstown, a Speedway gas station, which always had its share of pickup trucks and cop cars, Winn-Dixie, Auto-Trader, A-1 Vacuum Cleaners...

As I took this all in, I realized that something was missing; something had changed.

Flags. There were no more American flags to scald the eyes. Fags, sure. This was the Highlands after all. But no more flags.

Up until the fall of Mazar-e-Sharif, nine out of every ten cars were guaranteed to have flags poking from every window, and an equal ration of houses were draped with the stars 'n stripes. Some people went farther with their "watch me as I'm being patriotic" exhibitionism. A few weeks earlier I spotted a silver pick-up truck with the words "Nuke Osama!" painted on the hood in splattered orange lettering. Where'd he go? Did the pickup just disappear?

In fact, the only people who still fly flags from their car windows ANYWHERE in America today are Arabs. Which is starting to make white people even more suspicious. Anyone still flying a flag from his car window is considered a potential Al Qa'ida sleeper, and not a very clever one at that.

By Thanksgiving, the war in Afghanistan was, for most Americans, essentially over. I'd missed the turning point during my speed binge, but I came out of it in time to notice the wave receding, leaving almost no trace behind.

Or was there ever even a change in the first place?

The crazy dyke neighbor of mine, Bin Linda, told me that nothing at all had changed at the hospital she worked at.

"Naw, everybody's still fuckin workin, just doin their fuckin thang," she told me.

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