Friday, November 05, 2004


It is the off-season, and after a month of an improbable baseball games, two weddings, and two engagement parties, Octobers optimism has shed into November anxiety. There are only so few times we can pick our future – a time you decide to cross a room to talk to someone who catches your eye who winds up becoming your spouse, a moment when you decide on a school because they were throwing Frisbees on the main quad or the job learn about over a cocktail that gives you a fist full of stock. Troubled by our uncertain future I went to the Legion of Honor Museum to find out about our past.

The Mayan exhibit was the main attraction, and I used an accoustiguide to compensate for my ignorance of native Southern Americans. These devices have changed from their modified tape players of the eighties; they have switched to digital access through typing in key codes at each statue. Someday I wonder whether we will have museums for old accostiguides. They are the information descendants of scrolls and stone tablets, but have yet to acquire the necessary dust.

There were two tracks available – one for adults and one for children. The children one was narrating by an adolescent descendant of the Mayans. She talked about breaking her nails in one section and how like totally great her ancestors were. I stuck with the adult track.

I learned about the Mayan gods. They had one for rain, one for corn, and, best of all one for chocolate. The vase saluting coca had a large guy with a potbelly comfortably reclining in his thrown. There civilization was a thousand years from the remote control, but they had laid the groundwork.

They loved sports and had a game where you wore a barrel. I am sure whichever team was the Yankee equivalent had the most expensive wood. They had music and writing.

And they had ritual bloodletting. Granted this isn't too far away from the Christian blood themed communion, but rather being on the receiving end of hemoglobin, priestesses would cut their tongues and drain themselves to inspire visions. The future must have always tasted bitter.

They also bled their prisoners. But rather than using Rumsfield to cover up their brutality they made steps shaped like prisoners and murals to boast their triumphs. It was at this point I wondered what exactly was playing on the kid's accoustiguide.

How can you look at the sorrow of this world and present it to a child? I did type the children's code at the great mural at the end of the show and the girl said that sometimes her ancestors did things that upset her, but she was still proud of them.

Coming out of the museum I realized I was still in a world with two different tracks. One is color-coded red that captures our religious and warring fever. The other is blue from seeing the millions of jobs lost, thousands killed, and hundreds tortured. One believes that our president wasn't responsible for most of this, and the other wants a responsible president.

Together we as a country must see the same things, but somehow we have typed different codes into our accostiguides. I can't help but wonder what would have happened if four years ago if four hundred votes switched in Florida. I believe the airplane attack was inevitable, but the economic, cultural, and diplomatic damage from the deficit and wars afterwards were completely optional. There was a time four years ago when we could have been on a different road than the one we are on now.

And we just passed another point of return. I have no idea what the validation of the president's policies will be. I have no idea where intellectually drained visions from his god will lead us. As magnificent as Mayans were they, too, did crumple. There has been no nation, no culture that at the height hadn't purged itself. The Romans, the French, the Germans, the Russians, and the Chinese all have had moments of extreme nationalism with a high body count.

I feel lost now. Disillusioned. I know that I will still try to comfort myself with mocha and baseball. But the future once again tastes like blood.