As I watched him on the stage
My hands were clenched in fists of rage
No angel born in Hell
Could break that Satan’s spell
And as the flames climbed high into the night
To light the sacrificial rite
I saw Satan laughing with delight
The day the music died
It’s been a rough few weeks for the empire and make no mistake, the empire is us.
Everybody’s shooting at us including us, as last Sunday’s debacle on the desert dismally demonstrated.
Matt Taibbi put it best in Rolling Stone: “We Americans have some good qualities but we’re also a bloodthirsty Mr. Hyde nation that subsists on massacres and slave labor and leaves victims half-alive crawling over deserts and jungles while we sit stuffing ourselves on couches and blathering about our ‘American exceptionalism’…Now, the mask of respectability is gone and we feel sorry for ourselves because the sickness is showing.”
Oh, the humanity. While governments worldwide target us, their citizens love us, especially the idea of us, the shining city on the hill where you are judged by what you do, not who you are or whom your family is.
Don McLean’s iconic 1971 rock-country masterpiece “American Pie” set our tragicomedy to music, an alternative national anthem. He used the plane-crash deaths of seminal rockers Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper in a 1959 Iowa snowstorm as a musical metaphor pre-figuring the 1960s, beginning with Dylan and the Beatles and ending with the deadly Rolling Stones debacle at Altamont, the bookends of a bloody decade.
Indeed, smack in the middle of the Vietnam era came the infamous University of Texas bell tower massacre. Charles Whitman, an ex-Marine sharpshooter, shot and killed 16, including a pregnant woman, and injured 30 others on August 31, 1966. That record was eclipsed by a Reno-based blackguard last Sunday.
We are a mystical and dangerous place like any jungle filled with skulking species among which we are dominant, drunk with the beauty of our weapons.
How many of the 894 Nevadans whose names will be inscribed on the proposed Sparks Marina veterans memorial were Native Americans killed defending their country against invaders?
If there’s a meaning to this short sojourn, perhaps it’s to learn from the dichotomy of the major attributes of our tribe, primitives torn between the merciful and the murderous.
Voltaire once opined that God is a comedian playing to an audience afraid to laugh. We reject rather than recognize and reconcile our incongruous duality. And so we remain insane, largely unaware that the joke’s on us because the joke is us.
I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away
I went down to the sacred store
Where I’d heard the music years before
But the man there said the music wouldn’t play
And in the streets, the children screamed
The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed
But not a word was spoken
The church bells all were broken
And the three men I admire most
The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died.
Bye, bye, Miss American Pie.
Be well. Raise hell. / Esté bien. Haga infierno.
Andrew Barbano is a 49-year Nevadan and editor of NevadaLabor.com. E-mail <email@example.com> Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.