There’s this guy coming round one side of the pillar and there’s another guy coming round the other side. The other guy can see the first guy but the first guy doesn’t know the other guy is there. Just when you think they’re doing a Keystone Cops routine, cue plinky-plonk piano accompaniment – there’ll be collisions and custard pies any second now, the splat, splat, splat you hear is the sound of the second guy shooting the first one repeatedly, killing him calmly and deliberately; as if this is a state execution rather than a lone ranger raging against whites and white police officers particularly.
How to read your movements, America? The lightning fast transfer from tawdry to tragic – how do you do that? And back again the other way: from killer-cop/cop-killer pathos to the bathos of men in vests who were never the target, talking too much about how they survived the shooting.
Over the years and down the decades, you’ve made the switch, done the commute so often you don’t seem to notice the distance. Awesome, for example, made banal by you bringing it to the mall. Pathetic, originally inviting sadness and pity but latterly meaning paltry and inadequate. Both pathos and bathos, in other words, now joined together in that bastard adjective of yours.
Never mind if their meanings started out drastically different; it’s not the American Way to keep two words open for business when you can size it down to one. Instead you stick to what Henry Ford would have done.
But his kind of compression can cause compassion fatigue elsewhere. America, the world outside….oh yes, there is….that doesn’t know what to make of you, would hardly know how to care for you even if it wanted to; even if some of your cities were on the point of catching fire.