Yana Djin Essays

An American Holiday

Moscow News
July, 2001

Several days ago people of the United States celebrated the Independence Day. Perhaps, “celebration” is too loud a word to describe what transpired in most American cities on 4th of July.

In the nation’s capital, for example, hordes of city dwellers as well as suburbanites were magnetically pulled from their homes to the open strip of land that stretches from the Capitol to the Washington Monument. Incidentally, this strip of land, known as The Mall, is especially vulnerable to the merciless DC sun which on the 4th of July was particularly vengeful and baked the ground to the sweltering 100 degrees.

The sweaty crowd, packed together like cheap sardines in oil, spent the whole day getting slowly debilitated by the heat, each others’ stares, and the omnipresent law-enforcement officers who were there with one and one purpose only: to make sure that absolutely no one has any fun. Cold beer, some dosage of which, would have made the air seem a bit cooler and one’s neighbor considerably more attractive, was banned and violators who dared to take even a single swallow, were immediately escorted to the nearest police district. Firecrackers were banned also. The offenders, whose number included not only the “easy-to-please” teenagers due to the fact that we are, after all, talking about American public, were treated exactly the same way as the “aspiring alcoholics”. Those in the crowd who, for some god-forsaken reason, were bitten by the amorous bug and decided to exchange sweat in 80% humidity in order to display their feelings, were strongly encouraged to abstain from doing so. We were told the “sacrifice” was worth it, though: it was done for the sake of the annoyingly chirping children who accompanied each sober couple in, what seemed like, packs. The sight was enough to inspire sincere doubt in most biblical commandments and suggestions: those that had to do with being fruitful and multiplying were among the first to be discarded off the to-do list. Overall, however, the scene was more pitiful than hate-inducing: it was absurd to watch the nation celebrating its independence and freedom in an act of a massively torturous restraint.

After the crowd was combed through by the land police and the very last “criminal” was removed from the gathering, helicopters were deployed to overlook the scene from above. By the time I got to The Mall, following the call of the god of tastelessness whom the Greeks forgot to name, there were almost as many horses there as people. The horses, alas, were not at liberty to run free and trample occasional obstacles: they were mounted by humongous police officers. Imagine: haze and heat, helicopters overhead, sweating policemen on horses, a crowd of scared but sober morons all around, and a stage where some former evangelist-turned-singer was dedicating songs to Jesus! What’s there to celebrate?

I had a feeling that the President, in all his gladiatorial, Texan glory, was going to appear at the top of the Capitol’s nipple and watch as we were all going to be led away into the place of righteousness where “work will make us free”. But I was worried in vain: Dubya was reportedly playing with the confiscated firecrackers on the West lawn of the White House. Somewhat appeased, I nevertheless, slapped myself in my imagination (because doing so physically might have attracted the attention of the “mounted knights” and they would have charged me with abusing my own person) for leaving the confines of my home but, realizing that I was trapped there till the “party” disperses, I decided to mingle and listen to people’s conversations.

What can I say, optimism was running rampant inside me that day! The crowd tortured by good behavior and absolute sobriety on the day of a national holiday was not very verbose. Couple of yawns here and there; couple of sneezes; couple of proverbial “I am sorry’s “; some calls to “be careful!” ( more careful?); a small gathering of Promise-keepers – a popular Christian (oh, poor Christ!) group of rednecks who have suddenly and simultaneously been touched by the Lord and who take loud oaths to never again kill their wives or molest their children; a group of flaming homosexuals holding a placard which calls the world’s scientists to invent ways for men to bear children; Harley Davidson bikers with the portrait of semi-naked Charleton Heston who gave up his mediocre acting talent and dedicated his energy to the right of every American to bear arms; some housewives sprawled out on the grass like limp elephants, chewing on home-made sandwiches; families of Latin Americans smiling aimlessly at the sky and trying to hide small bottles of Teiquilla in their trousers; more housewives with sandwiches; more promises from the Promise-keepers; and – suddenly! – a miracle: horses are seen galloping towards the Washington Monument, the overgrown bellies of the “mounted D’Artagnans” are quivering in the anticipation of an inevitable capture of the villain who turns out to be a scrawny teenager with a rather uncensored mouth. Obviously having smoked too much pot at home before joining his “liberated and independent” countrymen, he decides to put on a show: he mentions the name of Osama Bin Laden audibly enough for the ear of one of the Promise-keepers who alerts the police that Bin Laden is strolling amidst the crowd. Even if the non-drinking but hashish-smoking and America-hating Bin Laden would have “graced” the Mall with his presence, I think, he would have had enough scruples to detonate the bomb for obvious reasons: you can’t kill the already-dead. But Bin Laden was nowhere to be found: apparently, he decided to stay in Afghanistan and take another drag off his hashish pipe rather than take part in a mockery of a celebration. After the “ominous villain” was whisked away, looking forlorn, we were blessed with the much-awaited fireworks display. Exhausted and disciplined, we looked up at the dark sky that sprouted forth multi-colored sparks each of which seemed to spell one word: “BEHAVE!”


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