The other night, the grumpy old man I’m destined to become made his first appearance in my life. Somebody was watching the nightly news, and the hairdo on screen was affecting that grave tone they reserve for Very Serious Matters, like announcing celebrity deaths. In this case, though, it was nothing so earth shattering. He was just talking about the latest round of fighting in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But something in me suddenly snapped. A surge of bile rose out of my guts, and the voices of all the grouchy old farts from every American Legion Hall in the country spoke as one from my larynx: “Fuck ’em all,” it said. “Both sides can kill each other off for all I care.”
A few minutes later the anchorman, whose name I’ve tragically forgotten, dropped his Edward R. Murrow reporting from London during the Blitz persona and became, as if by magic, a fountain of sunshine and levity as he talked about LeBron James returning to Cleveland. But it was already too late. The damage was done. The scowling reactionary at the bottom of my soul roamed free all evening long. I spent the whole night yelling at the dog and fighting the mysterious urge to buy all of Jesse Ventura’s books.
(Just kidding. I never yell at the dog.)
(I only yell at the cat.)
I don’t really think that way, of course. I abhor violence and don’t want anybody to be hurt, not even people who deserve it. I could suffer the likes of Dick Cheney or Jamie Dimon to endure a few strokes of the lash, or maybe a week or two in the stocks so people could walk by and spit on them, but that’s about it. I don’t want innocent people to be harmed or killed. I sympathize with the Palestinians and think Netanyahu is a war criminal. If I had three wishes that could come true, world peace would be third on the list.
There. I said it. Now you can chuck those sentiments in that overstuffed folder labeled, “Things I Believe That Make No Fucking Difference.”
Netanyahu could be herding Palestinians into gas chambers and it wouldn’t matter as far as U.S. policy is concerned. Both presidential candidates would still go groveling to AIPAC to convince them that Israel is their BFF, and that under their presidency Uncle Sam will never take the car keys and the credit cards away.
The media narrative in this country, with few exceptions, would still be all about gallant little Israel, oasis of democracy in the Middle East, nobly fighting wicked Arab terrorists, whom all good Americans know are ipso facto our enemies as well, even when they aren’t.
I happen to think large numbers of Americans don’t buy that narrative. I think a lot of people are sick and tired of Israel. I think a lot of them would gladly tell Israel to stick it where the moon don’t shine. But you can put those sentiments in an even larger file labeled “Yet Another Issue Where the U.S Government Ignores Public Opinion.” Here, as in so many other instances, what we think doesn’t amount to a piece of rat shit. U.S. policy is a foregone conclusion no matter what we do.
After a while you just stop caring. You shrug your shoulders, give up, and realize the only rational thing to do is focus on matters closer to home, like figuring out how to pay the rent in a “jobless recovery.” Hence the outburst. Hence the angry old man. So the Israelis and the Palestinians are at it again, huh, just like the dysfunctional alcoholic couple across the street who have been fighting over the same stupid shit over and over again for the past two years, world without end? Well, what the hell do you want me to do about it? Give me my hot cocoa and get off my lawn, dammit.
(I don’t really yell at the cat.)