The Moment of Truth — June 6, 1998

Why Kids Kill, Reagan Monuments

Hi, I’m mejeffdorchen and welcome to the Moment of Truth, the one moment in all of broadcasting when the truth is let out of solitary confinement, released from its damp, windowless cell to stagger around in the light of day for three minutes on its painful feet which have all but rotted away before being locked up again for another week by its capitalist media prison warders.

What’s true this week? Nothing. Everything is false and empty, bereft of integrity, meaning, sense. The weather’s cold. 15-Year-olds are being sentenced to life in prison, while Ronald Reagan is doddering around southern California eating lime popsicles, not just free as a bird, but actually having monuments christened in his honor. I recently saw some old footage of a Reagan presidential press conference and it all came back to me: that horrible feeling of disbelief that so many supposedly sapient human beings could watch that buffoon blather and bumble around like the most obviously moronic liar imaginable and then vote for him AGAIN in 1984 – a truly appropriately-named year.

But then I think of those in India and Pakistan, those people living in poverty who are nevertheless overjoyed that their governments have forfeited nothing but US aid that would only have gone to help these self-same impoverished people, the same people who say they are willing to be a little poorer as long as they can have the satisfaction of living in a country with nuclear weapons. And I think, patriotism is a blight on the human mind and spirit. I think Reagan, bombs, the adulation of idiots. This species deserves to exterminate itself.

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that little kids are driven to nihilistic murder at about the same time as we’re lionizing Ronald Reagan by naming things after him. When a society holds up such a sick, vacuous hypocrite, a man with no more respect for democracy or human rights than a brainless, driverless, runaway train, when a society hold up such a nauseating example of the human species as worthy of honor and respect, what philosophical options does it give its offspring?

I’m not condoning violence as a legitimate response to our upside down priorities. I just feel that if we’re really honest with ourselves, I think we might be able to understand why, in a society where we reward the most egregious criminals with obscene wealth and allow innocent people to starve, it might not seem to a kid that shooting up a school is that bizarre a thing to do. In a world where people cheer because their government has put their lives in jeopardy just to prove its nuclear machismo, why would a kid think it was weird to murder his parents?

In a society in which conservatives mourn and honor Barry Goldwater, finally dead, thank god, I dance on his grave, as some kind of visionary, an openly racist jerk who advocated the use of nuclear weapons in Vietnam – in this kind of society, we should consider ourselves lucky that the kids commit random acts of violence instead of systematically executing everyone over eighteen. We may just be breeding our own backyard, juvenile Khmer Rouge right here at home with our hypocrisy and stupidity and our honoring of the least honorable people imaginable.

My general and rather stupid point is this: this week, humanity is making me so sick that I almost wish some race of giant lizards would come and tear the whole thing down. Shape up, people! Be a little more circumspect. Be a little more sensible. I don’t want to understand why a kid might think human life is worthless. If a kid goes into his school and shoots another kid, I want my response to be the same as if giant lizards appeared and started eating everyone. I don’t want to go, Oh, well, yeah, I mean, just look around.

Do I take any responsibility for this state of affairs? Yes. That’s why I feel it’s my duty to tell everyone else, knock it off. Shape up, get with it, start acting like you care about something besides beer and entertainment and big fancy machines and money. Find your soul. Find a lasting treasure, find integrity, find your yearning for peace among other humans and express the preciousness of that to you, so that even a kid can see how much you care about it. Show how much you care about it by honoring it in others, by wishing it well, by reviling its destroyers and relegating them to the diaper pail of history.

Come on, people! Do it! Honor and improve that within you which makes you worthy of your treasured existence in the precious universe! Care about something that can’t be bought processed packaged or sold, find that thing in yourself and in others and declare it honorable and superb! Publicly display your love of it! Increase it, improve it, multiply it, exercise it, fuel it, perpetuate it.

That’s all I can say. Take stock of yourselves and recommit to the best within you. That kind of activity can never be a waste of time. Other than that, what can I say? I feel like humanity could be wiped out at any moment and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least. I feel like there’s a mushroom cloud hanging over my head. Reminds of my youth in the sixties and seventies – makes me feel like if I hadn’t already gone through the process of ridding my body of the poisons I started intoxicating it with twenty years ago, I might just want to start poisoning myself now. Cuz what the hell, the world’s gonna end anyway.

Hey, kids aren’t stupid. It’s not just what you tell them or how you interpret the world for them that makes them decide what’s important. Just as much if not moreso it’s what you actually do and things that actually occur in the world that form their priorities. If you tell them someone’s great and they can plainly see that person’s a repugnant scum, that tension is going to register somewhere.

Is there hope? Well, as long as there’s the moment of truth, there’s hope. But right now it’s over, so for at least another week, hope is put on the back burner along with truth, integrity, and the ineffable things we really care about. Oh, well. With a little luck we won’t all perish horribly in nuclear flames or be massacred by our government or its enemies during the next seven days. Good luck and until next time, this has been the moment of truth, I’ve been mejeffdorchen, and if we survive you can hear me next time on national beer presents this is hell Saturday 10 am to noon with your host Chuck Mertz, right here on WNUR 89.3 Chicago’s sound experiment.