"Yup, the trickle down violence of that which was set in motion." That's what I said to Jim as we trickled down the river upon the tide of it, headed toward New Orleans.
"Sure was a perfect hit on America they did, Mr. Huck," Jim said. "They really knew..." He looked out over the river the twilight falling on its brown surface. "They really knew how to get at us."
A dark tree trunk with a limb or two left on it followed by a few dark sticks that may have been related passed along. There were lights of a river boat way way up ahead, you could see as a drifting point now and then, but mainly against the blackening sky.
"Look at all that, Mr. Huck. They sure knew what they were doing. Like they'd watched that Apocalypse Now movie, what's that Brando say, the genius, the genius of all them babies arms cut off standing in a pile because of being inoculated.... The horror, the horror... Shit."
The last bit of the light of the setting sun came through the clouds as he calmly faced the river before us, channels, things to navigate, all of which he had some natural confidence about. We'd been going down now since early early in the morning, hours before the sunrise, and now past dusk.
"That Bin Laden, like he'd knew we as a country, all the army and stuff, the CIA, the State Department, we'd all play into it like a bunch of puppets, just like Punch and Judy whacking themselves... And the stuff we'd spawn, that we'd do ourselves, as if we couldn't help ourselves, would prove their point, all the mean stuff we'd do to other people, and then to justify it all, an increasing secretive industrially growing need to justify it all, out of guilt, you know, Mister Huck."
There were fish swimming in the river, and it was one of those quiet points.
"And all those poor student children they killed in Mexico, burnt and thrown in the damn river, that's all tied to it too, Huck, if you ask old Jim, yes sir. Can you imagine that? Well, it's the damned truth. Because of the damn threat from these imagined ghosts we've made out of that one damn attack, and our own fool letting it happen when we knew the damn shit was going to happen, because of all that, now we got to align the our own damn half part of the world, make it military, make it protecting the natural resources.... Us against them. And that's what that damn Bin Laden wanted, for whoever leads us whole or in part to forget us good people and act like this damn tyrant, like this bully cop, and damn if we didn't fall for it hook, line and sinker. Guy's dead, we got him, but his damn ghost's everywhere. And maybe we deserve it, crazy as that is, I mean... See a crazy man, keep an eye on him... Don't start shit with him, 'cause he's crazy."
We sat in silence listening to the dusk fall over the river, an egret, a heron taking off now and then as we passed, lifting up on lazy wings that matched the dark over the ripply still water.
"What did we do, as a country... We played right into it. Violence begets violence, and there's no damn end to it, no safe place, and look at all the shit that's happening, us letting all the aggressive war types take over, so they can perpetuate themselves... I'll be glad to get down to the town of Louis Armstrong. He knew what slave life was like. He knew being poor. He knew being a good will ambassador, that's right, he did. And that's some culture. That's America. Yes, that's America for you, the good America, Louis Armstrong, not some gun in your hand robot kill 'em before they kill you and get your oil type..."
We went through one of those long broad turns in the river's course.
"Protecting yourself against those perceived bad men, what do we do, we support like it was natural, a happy thing, the hoodlums we support to preserve some Prohibition type view, disciplined cop types intruding into all our business, my god don't ever say this out loud Huck, those people are even worse, and they come from within, like a damn cancer. And all we want is to eat healthy, a piece of fish, some cornbread, some greens, a sip of something good, something local, not full of chemicals. Is that a lot to ask for? And we can't even do it here, and there we are with the next round of a fight, just some kind of ego thing because they did something to, as if there's a they."
There was the river before us. There on each side its banks, green and low and some of it levy.
I looked up at him and smiled, as he looked back straight at me with a look of some satisfaction, as if having solved a mathematical problem, or done his checkout report for the night. "Whose ass are they going to throw in jail for saying so... Whose employment possibilities are they going to reduce, man, you don't want to know. Best to keep quiet, Mr. Huck, best to keep quiet. Lord, um uhm. Shoulda been a banker, then I'd be above it all."
Later after we ate, pulled up on the bank, starting a fire, and took a fair swig of wine, Jim and I talked about how we wanted to get back to our respective restaurant gigs. Truth could be told in such places. "But that's why them kids are dead down in Mexico, has something to do with us lining up everybody to fight some damn ghost, and Bin Laden, he's a ghost, nothing but."
It was as we were drifting off to sleep on the raft, tied up by a tree, Jim murmured, "and we're damn scared of that ghost, apparently, and that damn ghost, like it's going to come and get us, so that we're so afraid we can't take care of business and listen to all these damn people who make money out of going to war one way or another..."
Somewhere in the night, I think I turned in my sleep and looked up to find him sitting up. "Those old minutemen, weren't they just gentleman, soldiers on top of the things they'd normally do, farmer, millworkers, teachers, normal every day kind of jobs, brewers, bread makers... stuff that kept them out of trouble... "