Main Street at Midnight

Armies in the Static

Last year I attended a Memorial Day service in a small town cemetery where the sheriff bemoaned the “unpatriotic media that criticizes our American values.” What should have been a compassionate speech honoring the sacrifice of our veterans was instead laced with the venom and paranoia of talk radio. Standing among the flags and tombstones, hands over our hearts, I shivered as he spoke of a hallucinatory war on terror, “a war which may never be won.” The message was clear: we live in a state of perma-war therefore we should not question our government. The crowd quietly dispersed for hot dogs.

“There are only volunteers in hell,” the radio said as I pointed the car south. Strange how many towns in the middle of America are named after other places: Lima, Sparta, Warsaw, Lahore, Cairo, Versailles, and Lebanon. Did their founders expect they might one day rival these cities and nations?

I scrolled through the vicious ecclesiastics and berserkers of talk radio, an endless opera of fear masquerading as fury. “This is a war for our souls, ladies and gentlemen, so join the conservative army—” (static) “—a Christian nation—” (static) “—where the second amendment comes first.” Conservative talk radio is the sound of hysterical white skeletons indoctrinating a cult and nudging its members toward real-life violence in the name of Jesus Christ and George Washington. There is something very rotten in Christendom today when it can be used to sanctify greed, bigotry, pollution, and guns. This is where the battle for America’s soul must be fought: against a church that provides spiritual cover for corrupt politicians and our cruelest impulses.

After sixteen hours of talk radio, interstate winds, and screaming into metal boxes for food, my grip on the world grew slippery, an effect heightened by a new chorus of voices that began flickering through the static after midnight. Why can’t we escape the earth? they asked. One caller was convinced we’re living in a dome. Another said humans might be a dark army for an alien force. Maybe the universe does not exist. Perhaps the sun is hanging from a tree somewhere. Compared to the talking points circulating through our radios and screens, these people sounded positively open-minded.

Kristoffer Lo - Front Row Gallows View

The Black Meat | Propellor Recordings, 2016 | Spotify

Perhaps the most frequently played song in my library over the past year or two, this endless brass drone is perfect for a night drive towards a horizon dotted with the gas flares of oil refineries and the blinking red lights of distant antennas.

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