"As to the evil which results from censorship, it is impossible to measure it, because it is impossible to tell where it ends." ~ Jeremy Bentham
A Million Little Pieces
Man, I'd love to write a bestseller. Sell a million copies and appear on prime time TV. I'd love to hobnob with Larry King Live and Oprah and Regis. Party at the Playboy mansion, my name printed atop the New York Times bestseller list, and have my book reprinted a zillion times in paperback.
Best of all, I'd love to get a million little pieces of US currency stuffed in my wallet. Sure, I'd enjoy a million fans, get my book translated into a dozen languages.
Man, that would be fine. My head would be swimming, so big I couldn't fit it behind the wheel of my new Cadillac Escalade.
And then the book would be made into a movie that millions would want to see. Just like Harry Potter. I'd get another million little pieces of cold hard cash for screen rights. I'd get to hobnob with Brad Pitt (who would play me onscreen) hobnobbing at, where else, the Playboy Mansion.
Even mediocrities who've never written anything before, who fuck up whole countries and leave them in a million little pieces (for future generations to fix), get huge book deals. George Tenet, former CIA director and Neocon yes man, received a $4 million book deal. Retired general Tommy Franks, who led the ill-advised US invasion, got $5 million.
Yeah, I'm miffed because I got my recent royalty check for my first novel. I tore open the envelope from Aventine Press with a great deal of expectation. Fifty seven dollars for book sales during the last several months. Like every other writer, I was hoping for a few more zeros.
Gee, why couldn't I have invaded someone instead, even my next door neighbor, and gotten a multi-million dollar book deal out of it? Why couldn't I smash things up in the Middle East and leave a million little broken lives and get a million dollar book advance?
What's wrong with me? Why did I have to write some lame suspense novel about the JFK assassination? Who-the-hell-cares what happened 40 years ago? Why didn't I write an endless series of fantasy novels about a boy wizard instead, casting a million little spells, while a more powerful spell was cast over this entire freaking country?
Man, I'd love to write that. Love to invent a boy wizard, some pre-pubescent ATM machine with a wand. I'd be in Borders, Barnes & Noble and Walden bookstores signing autographs for a million little adoring fans. I'd soon be a millionaire 50 times over.
Sure, I'd love to write Harry Potter books, but I don't think I can write that badly. Not in a million years.
So why do I waste my time, writing essays about the probable takeover of some resource-rich, Third World backwater country while lambasting the predictably complicit, 'Hooray for our side,' US media? Must be the million little brain cells inside my head have a different priority.
Why can't I write instead some scandalous memoir? Why can't I sell some political potboiler to some big publisher? After all, the most successful people lately seem to be liars, fabricators, fakes and frauds who've authored fantasy-based blockbusters.
Paul Bremer gets $40,000 to speak. And, like the others, a big book deal. I'm sure every Neocon get a similar sweet deal for writing a million little pieces of fiction, called policy, floating around, readily accepted as reality.
Like the costly and permanent Iraq occupation sold to US taxpayers as a quick and relatively inexpensive liberation. Like the US dollar, held aloft simply by wishful thinking and wizardry, ready to crash into a million little pieces. Or like the real estate market, held aloft by speculation and wishful thinking, before it too crashes into a million little foreclosures.
All the while our media chastises some hapless memoir-writer at the top of the bestseller list who fictionalized his bad self. Why not hold the same mirror up to Dick and Don, George and Condi for their fictions? Instead, a million little pissed-off readers express outrage'shocked, shocked!'that Frey's account was exaggerated.
Sure, I'd love to write a bestseller. But I'd prefer not leave a million bodies on some foreign battlefield to get a sweet book deal, or spend a dozen years as a crack addict, or even plot the lives of a pair of pre-pubescent wizards in some fairy tale land.
So I'm in a million little pieces. Miffed over a million various lies that pass for truth, many I swallow myself. Miffed over my literary failings, certainly, but I can look myself in the mirror each morning and thank God I'm not Rumsfeld or Cheney.
But mostly I'm miffed that the Bill of Rights is being ripped and torn into a million little pieces and that a million little future citizens will never put the pieces back together again. Not in my lifetime.