Thursday, January 13, 2011

What If?

Image borrowed from Bing


What If?

1.
What if we really couldn’t afford to take care of our elderly, infirm, sick, dying, homeless, wounded, maimed, disabled, crazy… ? What if even Defense had a budget so tight the argument over whether to pay for one B-1 Bomber or instead, pay for city schools, hospitals, firetrucks, meals, medicine, shelter simply evaporated. Evaporated into listless, desultory conversations about the way things used to be when it seemed that we had choices. It seemed we had choices and if we argued our preferences reason – and kindness – just might in the end prevail.

But then to get to what seems to be the end of the line and find that survival means paring down to essentials, eliminating the niceties, the superfluous, the frills, in just the way we do when stripping to fight – stripping ourselves of binding wraps, stripping our enemies of their humanity. We have to see them as not-people, as not-us, or suffer as we slay them. Even if we don’t slay but simply walk away, allowing them to not-thrive to their very deaths, it will be easier if they don’t seem human.

Will our sense of humor keep pace with our sense of the tragic, the flawed, the foolish as meaning and hope gurgle into the earth? Keep laughing at ourselves, even as we throw the weak and helpless overboard and we buy ourselves time. We might survive.

2.
What if we really couldn’t afford to take care
of our elderly, infirm, sick, dying, homeless,
wounded, maimed, disabled, crazy… ?
What if even Defense had a budget so tight
the argument over whether to pay for one B-1 Bomber
or instead, pay for city schools, hospitals, firetrucks,
meals, medicine, shelter simply evaporated.
Evaporated into listless, desultory conversations
about the way things used to be
when it seemed that we had choices.
It seemed we had choices
and if we argued our preferences reason –
and kindness – just might in the end prevail.

But then to get to what seems to be the end of the line
and find that survival means paring down to essentials,
eliminating the niceties, the superfluous, the frills,
in just the way we do when stripping to fight –
stripping ourselves of binding wraps,
stripping our enemies of their humanity.
We have to see them as not-people, as not-us,
or suffer as we slay them.
Even if we don’t slay but simply walk away,
allowing them to not-thrive to their very deaths,
it will be easier if they don’t seem human.

Will our sense of humor keep pace
with our sense of the tragic, the flawed, the foolish
as meaning and hope gurgle into the earth?
Keep laughing at ourselves, even as we throw
the weak and helpless overboard
and we buy ourselves time.
We might survive.

Rick Mobbs

Posted over on his site Mine Enemy Grows Older
1. Original prose by Rick Mobbs.
2. Line breaks by Glenn Buttkus

1 comment:

rickmobbs said...

It's midnight here in the Sangre de Cristos Mountains, and freezing outside. We are safe and warm inside the house. My nightmare doesn't seem so imminent, the future so gloomy tonight. Thanks for posting and baking it into a poem. I couldn't help but go back and monkey with it more once I thought about it. Check it out on my blog. Hard to know sometimes whether the editing and amending adds or diminishes.