Notes on the Impending War; or, the World’s Oldest Big Mac

What follows is not an informative or informational essay, but just some unorganized thoughts I’ve had following the assassination carried out by the U.S. military on Qassem Soleimani, a leader within the Iranian military and one of the more powerful political leaders in Iran. I have plans to write something more in-depth, but I wanted to chart my thinking on this because I am terrified of losing my own ideals and opinions should war hysteria truly take root in our zeitgeist as this whole mess develops. Nothing here should be considered authoritative or concrete, as it was written hastily and will likely include spelling errors, grammatical inconsistencies, or “hot-takes” that will need to be cleaned up in the future to prevent myself from cancellation.

I found out about the assassination like any other single, mid-twenties professional: on Twitter, half-drunk in sweatpants in a moldy basement. I blurted out the news to my sleepy roommates, who were clicking away at a decade old video game. We all stopped for a second, but immediately began building out a series of WWIII jokes under nervous laughter.

My roommates are less politically inclined (I do the incessant lifting on that topic in our household) and were able to more easily return to their late-night routine following our controlled hysteria. But I found myself endlessly clicking through the internet until four in the morning, trying to absorb as much information about the affair as I could. My emotions oscillated between horror in thinking about the human tragedies that have and will follow in all of this, and riotous laughter over dinky memes about nuclear war.

There is talk of a “counter-attack” now. And that is all the fuss in the social circles I found myself in over the weekend of the attack. It is assumed that the Iranians will strike back in some shadowy way. It’s difficult to deny latent sinophobia extant in all these discussions: big assumptions about an Asiatic government having secret keys to destroy and destabilize our society; exotic saboteurs stalking society just waiting for the missive to induce terror. Whether or not any of this runs tangent to how the Iranian military actually functions is irrelevant. Even in heavily educated cities, the explosion of salacious current events lead us to base instincts and biases.

More official estimations of Iranian tactics reference “cyber-attacks” or hits on infrastructure. Very Important People write that these threats are Very Real, but given my shoddy internet coverage, high cost of utilities and agonizing commute, I don’t know how, exactly, some Iranian attack could make my life any worse. Take down the internet and trap me with my roommates offline? Take down the power-grid and force us to down shots under candlelight like heathens? How many more minutes might be tacked on to my agonizing commute? How will I ever repay my student loans? How did it get to be that the warfare undertaken in my name through my government has so little relevance to my day-to-day existence?

In all of this, we also assume that Revenge! is in the cards. I feel that we can’t help but work ourselves up about a government we know only through bad movies trafficked in offensive caricatures. But is some sort of mass-attack on American soil really in the cards? Why would the Iranian government, which has a decision making structure clearly savvy enough to understand that Trump is historically unpopular, take any action that might drive the American public into his tiny hands?

Indeed, my fear of an Iranian counter-attack is less rooted in fear of calamity, death, or terror than it is about giving the Trumpish-Neocon worldview any semblance of credibility. If Iran does respond, will this prompt Americans to rally around the ridiculous and inhumane foreign policy that caused this mess in the first place? Yet, if the Iranians walk away from a more biting response, they implicitly justify the nihilistic, imperialistic world-view of our hard-line overlords. In all of this, it confirms that our President can do shocking, horrifying, illegal things without challenge or rebuttal from the public or the world at large. And, in our unparalleled bravery, Americans respond with Twitter memes and winded essays about How Wrong This All Is as we slurp down the newest liquor-in-a-can pushed to us through coked up marketers from NYC.

This thought really spooked me, and I decided to drown that terror in cheap drinks at a local bar, as I suspect the majority of people across the country were doing. Three vodka-soda’s deep, I gazed up at the TV sitting over the bar to find local news running a segment on “the world’s oldest Big Mac,” unearthed in some closet in Nowhere, USA. The bar (myself included) had a hoot at the irreverence of this segment, which seemed to just go on and on as it showed us pictures of rotting food. To ensure that this wasn’t fake news, the segment backed up the man’s claim with a deteriorated receipt as proof.

Was this just a distraction, or is this the society that is supposedly at stake? Are our news institutions failing to report imperative current events instead of these stupefying distractions, or are we about to start a war to defend drunken reverie over rotting garbage?