The Play Is Over, Let’s Go Home


Remember (if you can) how it felt, remember Cheney (“Dick”), remember his sneer. Remember what it did to that knot in your back every time you failed to turn away from the television in time and accidentally glanced at his face, remember that knife blade twisting. Remember Rumsfeld (even on his elementary school playground he was known as “Bully Don”), remember his backslapping Halliburton buddies, remember how they laughed after he testified as to what he did or did not know about Pat Tillman’s death (he couldn’t recall a thing). Remember what he didn’t know or couldn’t recall about Abu Ghraib (why was he smiling?). Remember how small and sharp their teeth are when they laugh, remember it seemed they were always laughing at you (but know they never even thought about you, not even once). Remember how awful you felt every time you heard one of their voices on the radio, remember dragging yourself across the kitchen floor to shut NPR off.

Under the dark and endless Bush years it felt like a dark cloud was following me, it felt like the sky was six inches over my head, that the very air was nihilistic. During those dark years one of Bush’s minions called the rest of us (now we are sometimes called the 99%) the “reality-based community,” which was to say that his people were the ones who made history, and the rest of us merely played out our little roles. And it was true, in a way, in that grand yet shabby theater we were caught in, gaudy and empty and expensive, private boxes and velvet ropes and golden faucets and baroque curlicues and fat happy puti painted on the walls.

Remember Karl Rove, the director of that unendingly terrible play we woke up to every morning, the one where statues of Saddam were pulled down by actors, where Pat Tillman is not killed by his own men, where a million people come out on the streets in every city in the world to march against invading Iraq and it means nothing. Where Colin Powell can shake a little vial of baby powder at the UN and call it anthrax and we wake up ten years later still at war. Remember John Yoo, remember his tortured legalese which set in motion our transformation into a nation which openly sanctioned torture (that we are now back to our old slightly-more-clandestine policy on torture is something Obama can answer for once he’s re-elected). Remember: these people are world-class assholes, bullies and thugs, and they hate you. None of these people are gone, none of them are dead, not yet—remember that. They will be paraded out once again if Romney stumbles his way into the White House, they will fill our brainpans for the next four to eight years if we don’t vote Obama back in. Obama is wise and flawed and compromised and trying, like everyone else I know. For all that hasn’t happened these past four years, I no longer wake up each morning feeling like I’m caught in a bad, unending play. I no longer feel that every single one of the things that make up what I think of as meaningful (kale, children, air, Hopkins, tolerance. etc) is trivialized, marginalized, and being crushed under the wheel of a fleet of black limos. I feel like I now wake up in the real world, the world we all live in. It can be better, of course, but it is real.

I will vote for Obama, that was decided thirty years ago, there was never a chance I’d vote for an empty deathhead like Romney, and if you’re reading this you will too. Likely all your friends will vote for Obama as well, if they can get themselves to the polls, otherwise I don’t know why they are your friends. I know it’s hard, I know we aren’t exactly living the revolutionary change we might have (naively) expected, but it’s time to do what we can to prevent four or eight or a hundred years of these smarmy thugs parading around our brains. That play is over, it sucked every single night of its run, and now we are walking home. While we were huddling in the dark the world got torn apart, and lots of neighborhoods now are either dying from neglect or dead from money. I simply try to avoid the ones dead from money (Soho etc), but the ones dying from neglect deserve another shot. Let’s go home. Everything will be alright. Let’s go home.

Nick Flynn has worked as a ship’s captain, an electrician, and as a caseworker with homeless adults. His poems, essays, and nonfiction have appeared in the New Yorker, the Paris Review, and National Public Radio's This American Life. He is currently a professor on the creative writing faculty at the University of Houston, where he is in residence each spring. His most recent book is My Feelings (Graywolf, 2015), a collection of poems. In 2019, two new books will appear, Stay (Ze Books), a collection of collaborations and writings, as well as I Will Destroy You (Graywolf), a collection of poems. His work has been translated into fifteen languages. More from this author →