Been the End

The end is an equation with a repeating decimal. Worse yet, the end is like spending decades watching a television stuck on a channel broadcasting shows with dreadful, predictable endings, yet living another day to watch those same shows again.

The end is an equation with a repeating decimal.

Worse yet, the end is like spending decades watching a television stuck on a channel broadcasting shows with dreadful, predictable endings, yet living another day to watch those same shows again.

We have seen the end before and we survivors — real ones, not ones set down on an island — see the end in reruns.

Like a TV show. Only real.

And since “reality TV” is scripted, finessed realness, real reality no longer seems real. 

Surreal is the word for when reality becomes so fantastic it appears fake.

And numb is what we become when we see too much surrealism.

The end in reruns, then, is what we get when we become anesthetized to what’s really real.

And we’ve been mightily anesthetized by altered realities and addictions.

The hoopla surrounding the doomsday prophecy of the Mayan calendar (maybe the world will end Dec. 21) is meaningless because the world’s been ending for sure since the advent of reality television and the scourge of crack cocaine; 1948 and the early 1980s, respectively.

Alan Funt premiered Candid Camera in 1948 — the first time television cameras recorded and relayed a human response to manipulated “reality” — and crack cocaine began its eastward death march circa 1984. However, since crack still cuts a mean swath through small and medium-sized American cities and a Hamilton cop told me in the 1990s with certainty that crack hit my hometown in 1983, I’m calling 1983 crack’s birthday. 

Everything before 1948 was a mere precedent, a Jenga tower built by humankind to be toppled by humankind in our endless sprint toward absurdity, inhumanity and senseless violence.

Sure, there were pre-1948 mass murderers and all manner of surrealism. 

However, after World War II on through to the civil rights movement a decade later, America slouched toward commonality and we knew we were in for internal bleeding, but we punched ourselves drunk because the Voting Rights Act, Brown vs. Board of Education and a run on the assassinations of a spate of mid-20th century martyrs bound us up in unavoidable growing pains.

Since 1983, then, we’ve reached cultural, social, sexual, racial and class ennui.

It’s like we’ve reached the end of the Internet of our lives.

We’ve seen all the pages, all the sites; taken all the drugs, had all the sex and seen all the atrocities.

Nothing left but a loop of man’s inhumanity to man. 

I don’t know if they were saying it in the years directly after Candid Camera, but in the years spanning the late 1960s elderly black folks within earshot of my girlhood self used to say we were “living in the last days and times” whenever something heinous happened: when a child was snatched or murdered; if a man snapped under the curse of jealousy and beat his wife senseless or to death; or maybe when an entire family perished in a freak car or airplane accident.

You know, acts that transcended all reason, which showed God to be awesome, mighty, random and confusing.

Things we dared not outwardly question. 

Things we were secretly relieved hadn’t happened to us.

Not because we were cruel.

Because we knew we couldn’t absorb such inexplicable acts.

Since crack, neither our tenacity nor our supposed thick skin matters.

Shit just comes. It keeps happening. 

Don’t you just want it to be over? Sometimes, in your quiet moments, don’t you just want someone to pull the plug on this whole sordid mess?

Because, because, like, how can this continue this way day in and day out with the next day filled with more human implosion and suffering than the day before it?

Conduct a Google search for “31 mass murders since Columbine?” and what appears but “A Guide to Mass Shootings In America” on the site for Mother Jones.

School shootings (remember when that was an oxymoron and not a phenomenon?) didn’t start on April 20, 1999, when Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris mowed down 12 students and a teacher before shooting themselves at Columbine High School.

Black and brown kids in the late 1970s were being frisked and wanded at the doorways of poor high schools in places like the Bronx and the south side of Chicago. 

Those ghetto searches belched up guns and knives.

But while eyeballs were trained on them, by 1982 — one year before crack added mounting surrealism — mostly white boys and men stockpiled weapons and lived with their mental illnesses under the radar.

Public massacres, ahem, graduated from being school-specific and just went, well, public. Mother Jones reports there were 62 mass murders in America between 1982 and 2012.

Of those 62 mass murders, 12 were in schools, 19 in workplaces; the remaining 31 mass murders occurred in shopping malls, government buildings, restaurants, on military bases and even in a Sikh Gurdwara.

The shooters comprised 44 white men, one woman and a menagerie of ethnicities among them.

Right here is where gun control advocates will repeat what they’ve long held: Tougher access to fewer guns with more oversight after legal purchase will stem this tide of bloodbaths.

But this is the end on repeat, remember, so there is no one right answer to a cold snap out of surrealism.

Our kinds of endings happen in torrents by tsunamis, hurricanes, drone missiles, genocide, super storms, substandard health care, celebrity overdose and the ever-present threat of nuclear warfare.

Yet, we are survivors, and the real end never quite reaches us despite greatly exaggerated news reports of its imminent arrival.

Even with our technologies, including the saturation of iEverything, America hasn’t yet lapped itself in the greatness she achieved during the 20th century because we are stuck.

We are stuck ending ourselves.

Oh, and the ones among us who haven’t set about ending us? They’re numb to the cacophony created by the noise the fake end makes because they’ve seen too many endings before. 

Real end, please come. Stop teasing.

CONTACT KATHY Y. WILSON: [email protected]

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