Spotted yesterday, on the office wall in a dank garage in Waltham, Mass.:
A Christmas card, still taped up eight months later:
On it, here's what we see: A leering skeleton wearing a Santa's hat, clutching an automatic rifle in its bony arms. He's aiming it at us. And then underneath, in Gothic letters, this line: "Merry Christmas. Know that while you sleep men wait in the night, ready to visit violence on enemies who would attack us. PEACE ISN'T PRETTY." All against a death-black background.
Now this card was a real curiosity to me, and as I stood there, waiting to pay my bill, I tried to figure it out. Because while I'd obviously seen a lot of this sort of over-the-top celebration of American militarism before, on bumper stickers and car windows and the like, this was the most ... what to call it? There's no word, really.
Forget the disconnect between the supposed innocence of Christmas, with its tinsel and lighted church windows, and this bloody-thirsty death-skull avenger. The disconnect is the point, obviously.
Instead my thoughts were really just a series of questions, all having to do with my conviction that hey, apparently a lot of people like this sort of thing.
This whole concept - don't worry, go on nestling in your beds, dreaming sweet dreams, because we'll kill them for you - is actually comforting to some people. It cheers them, makes them happy.
It's not just men who think this way, but it's mostly men, I would guess - the kind of men who hang shiny steel testicles from their trailer hitches, to show they're macho (I suppose that's what they mean to show). And the kind of men who have bumper stickers that say, "Never trust anything that bleeds for five days and doesn't die." These guys are rough types, not too educated, not thinking they're in need of any education.
How many of these guys are out there? Are they a big slice of us? And do we utterly rely on them and their cartoonish machismo to implement our relationships with other countries in the world? I'm afraid the answer is yes. We do. That, standing in the garage, was what I was thinking.