[N E B U C H A D N E Z Z A R]
Sic erat in fatis.
By Jeffrey Alfier
Funny how your name rose out of the dimness of some dry Catechism class held mindless decades ago, to come round again in the stride of a mid-life daydream. Reared to triumph, you were once a world's lexicon of conquest, putting to the sword all those enemies of good. But the true American boys we were back in those years, fully alive with untroubled simplifications of history, cared less about Carchemish, and we dismissed with a yawn Balshazzar bleeding a scarlet reply to history's first writing on the wall. Never mind that you built one of Seven Wonders of the World, or took booty and tribute till Babylon shone like a jealous miracle. Or that you reengineered rivers into seas in order to shield the immaculate cities of your universe, though the errant pen of Herodotus allowed two queens to steal from you the Euphrates River. You remained starkly unequal to our heroes of Saturday afternoon, hardened as you are in a dull inscription on some basalt column that may as well have been light years away. We just couldn't summon you down from history, the way your master craftsmen evoked lions into the naked adoration of the Ishtar Gate. Unlike you, John Wayne never inscribed ignominious mental anguish on a tablet now displayed in the British Museum for all the world to read, perhaps underscoring the reason Blake painted your insanity in muscle, blood and claw, spreading your delirium across a cave dim enough for the jackals of Tyre and Sidon.
Yes, you were left out of the warm hours that spun us into the soldiers and knights we romanced-down from movie screens and televisions to our backyards and playgrounds, where uniforms glittered in our imaginations like Phoenician sails. It was those cowboys and Comanches, and Germans and Doughboys, that didn't hold us ransom the way the sisters of the diocese did in Saturday afternoon Catechism classes, asseverating how you made-off with "the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north." The Virginia soil of our youth could magically become the battlefields of Spartacus, Rommel, Patton, and Lee, but never the vague landscapes of your conquests that unborn boys of the future will likely find as easy to elide. Why, to play at capturing Jerusalem would be heresy to the endless stream of celluloid heroes we dreamt all-too real. Besides, biblical cities were inconceivable outside of a Christmas story. No - you and your ilk just weren't cool. Say it was your multi-syllable name. Or those two-dimensional glimpses of your unbecoming armor. But most likely of all it was because you and your perished world were images force-fed on Saturdays co-opted to religion classes.
Some of us would later turn childhood games into military enlistments and commissions to take part in spying-out your former domains with a policy of bartered light we named 'no-fly zones', where few now think of the heroes of their youth. But back in the heartland, the young - as in all countries - never concern themselves with who chooses for them the warriors of the earth they will emulate. Youthful impatience has no truck with the likes of didactic solemnity. Not at all; the silver screen was our arbiter, and idols forever arrived to pawn illusions to boyhood imaginations seeking nothing more than to carry fast in the fleeting summer that slept patiently beyond, where plastic Mausers and Colts anesthetized us against death, that great king of metaphors, who allowed us to believe - for a brief season - that he wouldn't separate us from the heroes outside.
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