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Flipping Channels
by WonderWolf

Feech says you can blame him for this one, but I'm not sure I want you to. I just come in here for visits, anyway. I'm not sure I've made much sense, but... Well, sometimes the news here gets to me.


        "Breaking News," says the red strip of type on the vidfeed. I sit up halfway to check out the information. But, as usual, I've already nearly forgotten where I am and what I'm doing here, so my mouth drops open and I make a sort of ambiguous sound when I see the announcement of "NATO airstrikes on Belgrade, Yugoslavia."
        "My," I say, and sit up further.
        "What am I," I think, "in some kind of time warp?" Then I remember where I am and shake my head at myself. But they're talking about fires, and it rings bells in my current host's head. Fires. Too many fires.

        There were two murders, a double beating death, in Iowa City last month. Both bodies were left to burn in a fire set to destroy evidence. The students who lived in the apartment where it happened came home to-- well, to no home, and the knowledge that someone had gotten in and done this. Shocking enough, for Iowa City, the little pocket of college town with all the hills in what is supposed, by stereotyped law, to be a flat as well as "safe" state. But then there was a landmark restaurant destroyed in another fire, with the apartments above it also lost, and a next door business gutted while three more were damaged.
        After that, another block of apartments burned and another set of University students was left homeless. Outside of town, a bridge is out.
        Most recently, a blaze started up in the university paint shop.

        Bridges out, and fires. A student interviewed in the college publication said of the fires that it's as though the city is cursed or something.
        Maybe it is... I can't help thinking it, and it comes on strong once I do. Maybe it's not really a transformation per se, but the idea's there, you know? They're bombing Yugoslavia. People _live_ in the United States that have relatives and friends or even past homes themselves in Yugoslavia. My own daughter's last name is one letter away from the very leader known in these times as a major Enemy.
        I guess I've always known that, in an abstract, historical sense, as it doesn't really matter who's named Adams or Booth or any well-known surname. But it matters when they have the gall to bomb the place in front of me. Couldn't they keep it to themselves, when there's nothing on Earth I can do, except come back here and see it?
        I've never exhibited a spectacular grasp of names and world politics. I admit it's likely that I have a lot of this wrong, even though I just watched the news tonight.
        This isn't even "my" universe. Anything I do in real life is in my "own" world, and what I see here that overlaps isn't really about my life except as it affects me emotionally.
        Of course, it does, and I start crying and wishing I were a somewhat more violent person, and could throw a more effective fit about this and get it out of my system. As it is, I guess you all get to hear me ramble about it, and it doesn't even carry any weight, because none of you will be doing anything, either. Not because you don't want to, but because of the terrible _distance_ of the people who "represent" _your homeland_.
        But these _people_, if you hear what they're _saying_... In your world, they're saying virtually the same things they said in mine before they embarked on their bloody international game of keepaway called the Indo-Chinese War. I came around for a visit here when the bomb went off in Kenya and Gabe had a time getting me calmed down then, too. It's all too much, too close.
        I don't fear, not really, that the rest of what's happened to us so far will happen to you. But as Gabe said tonight, "It's amazing that we've survived this far." All I can say to that is, "Those of us who've survived." Because plenty of _us_ haven't.
        And that's the point, isn't it? Isn't the word, "us", the point? Define "us". There's only so many ways you can narrow it down before it becomes pretty clear that there are hundreds of nationalities living on American soil. As far as I know, Americans live on every other marked out plot of soil that humans occupy, as well, so where does the "us" end? Don't answer that. I'm only thinking of one reply anyway, and I'm not in the mood to entertain others.
        Well... Okay, go ahead and say what you think. But this is the transformative image I can't get out of my head: that every bombing that takes place on another country's cities is repeated here, no matter how the laws of physics have to contrive to enact it. It's a mirror, a Voodoo doll, is my first thought, a final snapping to of reality when the inhabitants and creators of this reality aren't paying attention to what the universe finally decides is true.
        It's going to prove it, one way or another. In our world, it's done it in a number of ways, although the proofs haven't anywhere near always been taken seriously.
        When the Martian Flu and SCABS didn't make enough of a point, when the lines weren't blurred enough by that, the "representatives" of our nation went ahead and got into a big tussle with the "representatives" of a few other nations, thereby endangering countless others, killing thousands of their own, to keep each other from ever being able to use the "greatest" weapons mankind has ever constructed. So, to avoid others' possession of nuclear arms, "we" went to war on foot to keep everyone out of everyone else's missile stores.
        "We." "We" went to war. The fires won't stop, here, until they die down in Belgrade. The universe has got fed up and turned the tables, finally. Because we create it all, we make reality, and we've defined "us" and "we" as so many nationalities, so many forms, so many people that to strike down another is to strike down our own homes and power sources and children and bodies. We _know_ what "us" means. We tell it over and over to the universe.
        I turned the channel over to some insipid bit on Disney (will Feech get in copyright law trouble if I use that word?) when all the "experts" and "representatives" they had gathered for the news show sat down and one asked another _why_ this airstrike is _not_ a Quagmire.
        The answer made me sick. Don't take me lightly when I say that. It's one thing I'm annoyingly good at, getting sick to my stomach when anything _really_ gets to me. Great, huh? Yeah. Well. I don't know that you'll be any too glad I'm telling you this.
        Point is, the man who answered that question explained that it is _not_ a "Quagmire" because the _force_ which the US is striking out against is _small_.
        If it won't hit back, it _doesn't matter_.

        If they only knew.

        I don't know how long it takes for the efforts of the universe to right itself, to become what we've all insisted that it _is_, to sift into the awareness of the ones who can control the bombings directly. Does anything that happens in Iowa City matter to them? Is the universe mirroring Yugoslavia in a small pocket where it can satisfy itself as to the meaning of "us" without any interference from the governmental powers that aren't paying attention anyway?
        Who do they think they're sitting across the tables from? Who do they think they _are_? Are they American? "American" has been a notoriously tricky word to define.
        Maybe Iowan is the same as Yugoslavian, I guess is what I'm trying to say. Californian, too, like me, or any other state or nationality. It's not a transformation at all, is it. No, yes it is. It's about the transformation of the world to what we've defined it as all along.
        I say "we" because I feel like a part of this place, it's so much like home, and I just get used to considering this as a past time in my universe, in so many ways. There are a lot of discrepancies, though. Which in some ways is quite comforting.

        I didn't come here to watch the news. I really ought to get out of the habit. Maybe. I keep flipping to it on the television, which I called the vidfeed but you know what I mean, maybe just to see things and get them out of my system when I can see them happening for the first time. Maybe history doesn't strike home until you see and hear the actual enactors and the actual words they spoke. They _never had_ even that slight justification which we assume must have been there in order for the wars to begin. We sit in history class or in front of a history channel and think, well, yeah, but in that time, it must have looked different.
        And it _does_ look different. It looks even more sickeningly ridiculous than it does from a distance.
        Okay. I'm really winding down now, I promise. I'm using vague terms and probably making less sense than ever.
        Besides, Gabe is here too and being all comforting and such. That's really what we came for, just to visit. We were going to watch some TV.
        Breaking news indeed. Bleah.
        Okay, I'm done now, I really am.
        I like you guys, you know that? I like all of you. I just don't see why the universe even gives us the leeway it does. Maybe it likes us, too.

        Well, okay. Tune in next time to your local news channel for updates on how we're acting all out of whack with our own beliefs in who and what we are and where we came from and where we're going. You don't hear them say, "We're sending in planes to shoot our planes down. We're sending in soldiers to shoot ourselves." But "we" are. That's what we're doing, isn't it? Maybe the universe is just trying to give us a wake-up call.
        Wouldn't it be a _little_ more effective to try it outside of Iowa City? Of course, then, it wouldn't be equal. After all. Yugoslavia is "small" and doesn't count, just like America. Wonder what the daily college news will have to say on Monday.
        I highly suspect it will coincide directly with what the television has to say about airstrikes in Belgrade.
        Don't get me wrong. Like I said, this is _not_ what I came here for. I am going to go eat some Sprees (that's another trademarked word, I believe) and see what Gabe is watching now. Most of the time, it's nice to be one of us.

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