Friday, January 12, 2007

Garrett Murphy's CALL 9-1-1

The morning newspaper is brimming with opinions about George W. Bush's presidency and his Wednesday night speech. Reporters and pundits at NPR and AM Talk Radio offer their diverse and wide-ranging opinions. I know I should think enough is being said, but I'd like to add one more voice to the cacophony: the voice of the San Francisco Bay Area's Garrett Murphy.

I had the pleasure to hear Mr. Murphy read, with the incomparable Marvin Hiemstra, at the Oakland Public Library a couple of years ago. Mr. Murphy was a voice crying out in the wilderness, crying out at an urgent tempo, in a rapid-fire staccato reminiscent of Walter Winchell and World War II newsreels. I bought his book: Call 9-1-1 (Beatitude Press, 2004). It is a masterpiece of satire and social commentary.


While I was seated at home one day,
I got an idea for a new type of TV show.
The storyline went as follows:
The media of such-and-such a country
has been taken over by one cold-hearted
"big brother."
It saturates the populace with unquestioning
reverence towards authority large and small
under the guise of heartwarming "family values."
In this such-and-such a country
The school bully, for example,
has become the virtuous hero
of the dramas, the comedies, the court shows, the news
and even of all three branches of government.
And the populace is completely enervated,
they have learned to enjoy seeing humiilation
(even their own)
on a daily basis.
Shouting matches are the tonic of the day.
No "warm and fuzzy" with the schoolchildren here!
Whippings, beatings, slams on the walls
and tests tests
and more more tests
win the day here.
Police ride roughshod over those who are "different,"
be it by race, nationality, religion, or some other immutable,
and are subject to medals, promotions and veneration,
especially if they overreact and kill or maim.
Why, the country's own "caretaker"
is a schoolyard bully
come to extend the skills
learned on the playground
and extended to the city, county, state and nation
to the rest of the world
simply because "he can."
Now of course there must be a few
opposed to all of this,
but they shall not win!
These, you see, are the new bad guys
who are traitors of this such-and-such country.
All have learned to
(and to hell with the victims)
How's that for a new type of TV show?
I sent the idea to the producers of programming.
Surely they can see the numbers multiplying in their heads.

A few weeks passed before I heard from them.

Finally the response from them came
in the form of an envelope.
And I got the shock of my life as I read:
"Dear sir,
we regret to inform you
that we have rejected your proposal
for lack of originality.
We suggest you develop an imagination
or perhaps become a journalist,
for your work, you see,
as written as is,
is nothing more than a simple diary
of a very routine day."


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