Saturday, May 3, 2008

Readings: Strangely Prescient

In his novel Fanon, about which I posted below, John Edgar Wideman’s protagonist, Thomas, is reflecting on the aftermath of the Southeast Asian tsunami in a section entitled “Counting.” His musings turn from the counting of the human dead in Asia, to the counting the dead in the inter-species war between humans and the birds:

It’s almost funny, Thomas thinks. Counting up the countless number of chickens humankind has consumed. In that war of attrition between species, we must be way, way ahead of the birds. No contest, he guesses. How many chickens wiped out just yesterday by the smiling Colonel’s legions or troops marching under the banner of the fabulously rich chicken farmer who ran for president a couple campaigns ago. Birds may never even the score. But they keep on pecking. If chickens destroy every single human person this time around with the flu arrows grasped in their scaly feet, will the birds still be far behind. Who’s counting. Who keeps score. What’s funny or almost funny anyway is that we know and knew all along no matter how many battles won, how many we fried roasted broiled plucked eviscerated boiled chopped penned in coops fricasseed barbecued crushed and pulped for sausages or ground into mealie meal so they could make a Happy Meal of themselves, no matter how many of their eggs we sunny-sided up or scrambled or sucked or deviled or painted on Easter, we know that sooner or later, just as Malcolm X famously warned – though Malcolm’s words were quoted out of context to seem as if he approved of the president’s murder – we know those motherfucking chickens are coming home to roost.

Chickens coming home to roost. Hmmm. Words taken out of context, huh? Now where is it that I’ve heard something like that recently?

And, indeed: who’s counting?