Hello, Doctor? Thanks for taking my call — it’s an emergency. I’ve been infected. Well, medically speaking, I guess you’d say I’m not so much infected as occupied. My symptoms? They’re hard to describe. A cough, maybe.
Like today, I’m walking down the street. Big, shady trees, leaves bright green-gorgeous of early spring, twittering birds, everything oxygenated and sparkling. And I see an old gentleman in a baseball cap and suspenders, struggling to heave his grocery-filled shopping cart up the stoop to his apartment. My first thought is to go over and help him lift the cart. Simple enough.
Then I get a scratching in my throat and this weird, fearful sensation. “WHOA,” I say to myself. “Instead of being grateful, this guy could take out a .357 Magnum and blow my head off.” I notice a blockage; I cough. I think, “Screw you, old man, you ingrate, I was only trying to help.” I’m now shaking and feverish. I think, “To make sure you don’t kill me, you bum, I’m going to run a steak knife into your guts and drive a tank over your pitiful geezer body.”
By now, I’m coughing hard. The birds continue to twitter and the leaves are shimmering in the breeze — while I am picturing myself annihilating this old guy. But that’s the price you pay, right — kill them before they kill you? Just then, I retch; I double over and cough up . . . a tiny American soldier.
I’d call that a symptom, wouldn’t you, Doctor? Anyhow, it lands in my hand, all tricked out in little fatigues and a bayonet. I can tell right away it’s dead. So I panic and throw it into a flowerbed and run home and phone you.
I think it’s obvious, Doctor: I’ve become contaminated by U.S. foreign policy. I calculate, according to the last Democratic sellout vote, that I have at least 147,000 U.S. troops stationed in my Persian Gulf, er, body. Plus all their equipment.
How was I infected, you ask? This is embarrassing, Doctor — I, uh, didn’t take precautions. I must have exchanged bodily fluids with a peace activist or something. Some commie pervert who believed that all humans are “created equal.” I admit I’ve jumped to this conclusion once or twice, watching the news — that the beings who have died by the hundreds of thousands in Iraq are, in fact, human — that their lives matter as much as yours or mine. Naturally, in America, I couldn’t live, knowing this. So in came the troops. That’s right, Doctor: the government sent them. To protect me.
Even now, I can feel my inner troops. Drilling, playing cards, writing letters home, making sure I am terrorist-free. They won’t tell me if they had anything to do with the siege on Fallujah, or if they hooded detainees for interrogation. They say a lot happens that doesn’t make the news. They say they’re just doing their job.
Kids, mostly. Came to see the world, feed their families, get a college degree, defend democracy. But they’re stuck now and scared. They hate it and, knowing they are hated, they kill. They belong to me.
Naturally, morale is low. Oh, there are hopeful moments. Like when Dick Cheney flies in to encourage them. My troops are gullible; they’re honored by such appearances and cheer every time. I end up with dysentery and a bad rash.
And yet, my troops are wise beyond their years. They tell me that if I am to survive in this darkening world, I must daily harden myself. Like, I’ll be sitting in the A Train and I’ll suddenly wonder what I would do if that bored-looking schoolgirl across from me pulled out a machete and started slicing people’s ears off. What if somebody, for the heck of it, came up to me on the street and injected me with the Ebola virus? “It could happen,” they tell me. “You got to prepare.” They suggest ways I could hurt people back. Worse than with that old gentleman. I let him off easy.
Thanks to my inner troops, my powers of denial have never been stronger. I can read the front page of the New York Times, see a toddler wailing beside the corpse of its mother, then turn peacefully to the Arts section to find out which episode of Grey’s Anatomy they’re showing tonight, so I can lose myself in the stylish emotional retardation of J.Crew models-turned-brain surgeons.
But here’s the thing, Doctor. With all due respect to my troops, I don’t want them. Although they do allow me to cope with post-9/11 reality, they won’t let me dream of happiness. For example, I’ll be thinking of a quiet, sun-filled room, tulips in a vase on the piano, a puppy playing with a fallen petal and — blam!, a combat boot kicks in the door and stomps everything to death. This is unacceptable, Doctor: I cannot live on a planet where innocence is a constant deterrent to survival.
So I need fast relief. What would you prescribe — a stomach pump, chemotherapy, exorcism? This isn’t some little ailment where you say, “Click on two MoveOn.org petitions and call me in the morning,” this is serious. In fact, I suggest a radical troop-ectomy to actually remove our military from Iraq.
Lots of people could assist you in this operation, Doctor; me included. Then, of course, we’d have to get the troops out of the troops. They’re occupied, too, you know.
Susie Day lives in New York City where she writes a humor column for feminist and gay publications. She has also written on U.S. political prisoners and labor issues and thinks her girlfriend, Laura Whitehorn, is hot stuff. Can’t get enough of Susie? Read other pieces by Susie Day in MRZine: Susie Day, “Fugitive Offers Reward for Rumsfeld’s Capture” (22 July 2005); “Street Life of a Mad Activist” (28 July 2005); “Waiting for Karl Rove” (9 August 2005); “A Child’s Primer of Intelligent Design” (24 August 2005); “The Flood This Time” (19 September 2005); “Things That Rise Up in the Night: A Howl-oween Treat” (18 October 2005); “President Salutes Anonymous Red-Baiter” (14 November 2005); “Conspicuous Consumption of a Mad Activist” (11 December 2005); “2006: The Year in Horrorscopes” (9 January 2006); “Visiting Herman” (7 February 2006); “Savior Self” (6 March 2006); “Pinko Plague Panics President” (4 April 2006); “Seymour Hersh and the American Brain” (2 May 2006); “Identity, Class, and Bite Me, David Horowitz” (30 May 2006); “Bugging Hillary” (19 June 2006); “Back in the USSA” (24 July 2006); “News from the Back of the Front” (21 August 2006); “Barbie at the Barricades” (20 September 2006); “How to Stay Out of Gitmo” (18 October 2006); “Ted Haggard and the Church of the Down-Low” (13 November 2006); “Police Gun Down Another Rich White Man” (11 December 2006); “Consuming Karl” (6 February 2007); “Anna Nicole Smith Bombs Iran” (6 March 2007); “Peter Pace Porks a Peck of Pinko Perverts” (2 April 2007); and “Jesus Christ Weds Pat Robertson” (30 April 2007).