An American Christmas Crutch

by Guy Somerset 

Allow me to preface the following by making perfectly clear that I like Americans. At least, the ordinary American people. By and large they are generous, kind and friendly; or in other words, they display the exact opposite traits of their atrocious political leaders. The latter, their politicians, are really who global radicals have in mind when they chant "Death to America!" If these malcontents ever met the former, the people, most would find those folks they thought they hated are actually quite likeable.

Yet that being said there is one execrable habit Americans have which is extremely difficult to countenance when one is in their midst. It is a characteristic so pervasive, so all-encompassing, so ingrained within the American essence one simply cannot escape its perpetual consequences. From their films to their television to their newspapers and even seeping into the very books they read it is a feature so frequently encountered as not to be avoided a single day in that benighted nation.

Their militarism? No, this is far less unanimous than outsiders are led to believe; many Americans either don't like war to begin with or after fifteen years are exhausted by it. Their racism? No again, this is a slander which takes on the proportions of myth once actually living among them; Americans are for the most part fanatical about not recognizing anything having to do with race. Their profligacy? No, for while their infamous "Black Friday" and other temporary consumerist crazes are real these are vastly overblown; many Americans are more concerned about saving for retirements than spending money.

So what is this awful aspect of which I speak? To what vicious detriment do I refer? Is there a name for the vile thing which stalks the continent? Yes...and it is a near-absolute American fixation on the revolting or the repellent in all its physical manifestations as well as a collective certainty the most extraordinarily unlikely catastrophes are imminently to befall themselves.

I first noticed this many years ago in American newspapers. Name any city large or small and journalists were fundamentally incapable of refraining placement of some repugnant story front and center, above the fold, in primacy of place in the newsprint for all to see. Formerly I cut these out and discarded them (because who in their right mind enjoys such pathetic tales over breakfast?) but these eventually became so ubiquitous I soon was met with a large hole in my periodical each and every morning.

Usually such pieces took the form of a small child who was dying of some obscure illness; although retarded children and their obstacles were also quite common. Importantly, the youngsters were not famous or of note, they held no particular significance for the aforementioned communities outside of their happenstance to live there, and oftentimes there was no overarching message such as a need for increased funding for treatments, etc.

On the contrary, if you were pressed to give an explanation for such articles you would be at a total loss. Aside from reveling in illness, weakness, destruction and death there simply was no discernable reason. In fact if you were a cynical type you might speculate this widespread and frequent practice was within the realm of some sort of puerile titillation and verging closely on a form of disease pornography.

However, while afflictions of children are often at the fore they are by no means the only sources of this societal kink. People with deformations or who have suffered nauseating accidents are also quite likely to be features. These are particularly common given the United States government has been at war for fully a generation. Meanwhile its citizens seem unable to correlate the wars with the endless "Wounded Warrior" commercials; nor that if the state actually cared about the latter it would end the former.

Thus most depictions are for no explicable object other than to satisfy a Theatre of the Absurd or queer P.T. Barnum sensibility in the American psyche. On television this comes as the "human interest" story which is habitually fitted into the final ten minutes of every thirty minute news broadcast. A sick child, a maimed man, a person of diminished capacity or pathetically dying are the most habitual examples.

In popular literature, recently one of the most prevalent books for young adults was The Fault in our Stars which focused on children wasting in disgusting manners from extreme illnesses. Naturally, it was made into a film and became just as popular. Of course, one can make the argument all drama deals with tragedy. Still the salient point is the extremes to which this practice goes well beyond universality in the struggles of mankind and continues until it reaches excesses which are more rightly parody than parable. La Dame aux Camélias was accessible in an age when many died of consumption; current books which strive for bizarre ailments serve only to tantalize a quirk.

Even simple advertisements in America have undergone a radical alteration in the past few decades. Once, people viewed mundane though amusing commercials with dowdy store clerks, dancing products or catchy jingles. Now they begin and end with every form of disabled character you can imagine.

In a phrase, it is unhealthy to aggrandize the unwholesome. Yet sadly this unnatural state of mentality is a commonality in America. Even worse, Americans seem not to comprehend how the constant drone of the depressed and depressing affects their minds. Granted, this trend has been progressing for ages; still the fetishization has now reached alarming levels of Western pervasiveness.

To my great relief the last time I was in Petersburg administrators there were staunchly resisting the temptation to succumb to this psychological malady. Rising from the Metro I found a very cute kitten on a billboard inside the station. Not wounded. Not diseased. Not dying. However also, without advertising. Just a cheerful and fluffy kitten. I was so taken aback I specifically inquired its purpose only to be told by the bemused master, "We haven't sold that space yet. So it is just a kitten to make people smile."

What a novelty! In the United States it would have been a child on crutches...preferably with one limb.

Yes, all you doomsday "Dear Virginia's" in the so-called Land of the Free, bad things do happen. However it would do you all good for a change to realize most of the time most of the people will not contract most of the horrible illnesses, the vast majority will not die unexpectedly on the verge of their retirement, and almost no one will be randomly killed by a crazed terrorist. You literally have a better chance of winning the grand prize in a lottery than holding the ultimate losing ticket in mortality.

While there are always exceptions the majority of men, women, children and small animals are leading perfectly healthy lives without the scourge of infinitesimally improbable illnesses. The other is not "real life" as so many in America are inclined to believe, but the exceptions to life as is usually experienced.

So be happy without restraint, at least for one day. And why not on Orthodox Christmas? Even Tiny Tim, despite his condition, once shouted gladly "God bless us every one!" Now he would be cursing and cajoling everyone as a pimp for the feebleness lobby to shame healthy people into feeling miserable about themselves. This has become part and parcel of their debased culture. And while there is a reputation abroad that Russians are maudlin, one only thinks so if unfamiliar with the Americans!

When the inevitable manic depressive downer at your annual holiday party or attending the family dinner begins to relate their most obnoxious tales of weariness and woe politely change the topic. If they persist, impolitely tell them to shut their damn mouth.

Life is as glorious as you want to make it and it usually is quite wonderful; despite the best efforts of the naysayers and news media to create paranoia and panic regarding your everyday existence. For a single day at least allow your worries to fade away from coast to coast across that vast American heartland.

Never forget any Peace on Earth you enjoy will only begin with some very simple Peace of Mind.

Guy Somerset

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Author`s name Guy Somerset