Monday, February 15, 2010

Politically Ill by Gil A. Waters

Politically Ill
by Gil A. Waters

While familiarity may breed contempt in some social circles, most people who get to know me are more commonly afflicted by morbid curiosity. It takes only a few conversations of any depth before I find myself confronted by an inevitable question. "So, what was it that turned you into such a depressed and bitter drug addict?"

For many people, this might be a complicated question, if not offensive. Who can say with certainty what twists a normal human mind, full of potential and promise, into a mangled mass of neurons such as mine. Genetic defects, perhaps; a brain born incapable of producing that optimum mix of neurotransmitters essential to a happy and fulfilled life. Or a half-buried childhood trauma that wordlessly drives one into a self-destructive cocoon of chemical isolation. Or, conceivably, being smarter than most of one's peers and capable of recognizing the tortured hypocrisies that fill the world we inhabit.

Regardless of the cause, even those astute wretches fortunate enough to understand the nature of their affliction probably couldn't tell you when they slipped into the psychic black hole in which they wallow. It is usually a gradual process. The joy bleeds out of life, one drop at a time, and is replaced by a synthetic imitation of happiness that causes liver damage and memory loss.

However, in this regard, as in so many others, I am different. I can tell you confidently not only why I became a depressed and bitter drug addict, but I can also tell you the date it happened: November 4, 1980. The day Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States.

For those of you too young or too old to recall, Ronald Reagan was a talentless actor in the 1940s and 50s whose most notable achievement during those decades was to co-star in a film with a chimpanzee named "Bonzo" who consistently upstaged him. But he also found time to serve as a craven snitch for anti-communist zealots in Washington, turning in left-leaning fellow actors from his perch as President of the Screen Actors Guild. It was this whorish performance that first endeared him to the Republican Establishment, separating him from his liberal Democratic roots and propelling him onward and downward to the governorship of California and, ultimately, when I was 15, the presidency of the United States.

Fifteen was a delicate age for me. The free-love, free-drugs spirit of the 1970s was on life support, but had not yet died. Unfortunately, I had the double misfortune of being incarcerated in an all-male Catholic high school and not being gay, meaning that my opportunities to indulge my raging hormones with 70s-style sexual debauchery were extremely limited. And then, like a sissy kick to my swollen groin, along came Reagan; a geriatric prude composed of political platitudes and special effects, mocking my burning hormonal desire to get fucked, and fucked up, with his puritanically simple-minded rhetoric. It was too much for a young mind to withstand. It was at this moment that something inside me snapped and I began my descent into decadence and despair.

The despair came easily to me, but the decadence was more problematic. I wanted to be sexually decadent, but pathological shyness condemned me to years of virginity, and vigorous yet solitary masturbation, even after I escaped my all-male high school and joined the fleshy world of a co-ed college campus. Nevertheless, I was able to rapidly achieve an advanced state of chemical decadence. Beer, wine, and whisky flowed as freely as tap water in my parents' household, allowing me to blunt the impact of the Reagan Revolution just as it began to metastasize into a cultural cancer that spread even to my fellow teenagers.

I watched in inebriated horror as the country's collective I.Q. seemed to plummet overnight. Bumper-sticker slogans like "the pride is back" and "these colors don't run" became mantras for a whole new generation of self-lobotomized right-wing ideologues. Kids my age, who should have been worrying about where to score the best drugs at the lowest price, or how to most effectively bed their best friend's brother or sister, became sociopathic crusaders against Communism, homosexuality, and secular reason.

Most disturbing of all, Ronald Reagan himself - a man who once commented that "trees cause more pollution than automobiles" - was transformed into a "visionary" who single-handedly brought down a Soviet Empire he probably could not have located on a map. Even after he committed treason by selling U.S. weapons to a U.S. enemy (Iran), and using the proceeds to illegally fund a right-wing terrorist group in Nicaragua (the "contras"), he somehow achieved the status of Supreme Patriot in the eyes of his adoring public.

In short, the 1980s were depressing and demoralizing for anyone more intelligent than a house plant. I reacted in what seemed, at the time, to be the only sensible manner. I got really fucked up and more or less stayed that way for the next decade and a half. Being a born multi-tasker, I did find time in my busy schedule of drinking to pursue a higher education and add marijuana and the occasional hallucinogen to my self-abusive chemical repertoire. But to this day I remain a true child of the 80s: bitter, disillusioned, and desperately trying to outrun the stupidity of my fellow man with a bottle in one hand and a joint in the other.

Author bio:

Gil Waters lives in Washington, DC, and likes to write. He has managed to publish one brief essay in the Clockwise Cat (July 2009) and one short story in The Battered Suitcase (March 2009).

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