Something Adds Up to Nothing

That rainbow is farther away than I thought. (Monte Dutton)

That rainbow is farther away than I thought. (Monte Dutton)

Gotta an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, November 25, 2014, 10:44 a.m.

Last night, mainly I watched the football game between the Baltimore Ravens and the New Orleans Saints. I’m reasonably sure the Ravens won. I flipped the channels, though, trying to figure out what was going on in Ferguson, Missouri.

I’m not sure who won that, either. I think it might have been no one.

First of all, I thought the television coverage was incoherent. The 24-hour cable networks were so interested in hammering it into the viewers’ heads that there were people “on the ground!” that no one really analyzed the events from a considered distance. It struck me as stream-of-consciousness reporting taken to an absurd level.

“Yes, that’s right, Bob, there appears to be something, a building of some sort, on fire about four hundred yards that way. We were asked to relocate (wink, wink) after tear-gas canisters were fired.”

“Is there a police presence, Stephanie?”

“I can’t see any uniformed personnel here in the tire-balancing bay of the Firestone dealership.”

Everyone heard shots fired, but no one knew of anyone being shot. What “appeared to be looting” was … looting.

It gave me this horrible sense of déjà vu.

"Precisous Savor, Thou wilt guide us, till we reach that distant shore ..." -- Life's Railway to Heaven

“Precisous Savor, Thou wilt guide us, till we reach that distant shore …” — Life’s Railway to Heaven

I have a novel out called The Intangibles, which deals with public-school integration, civil rights, bigotry, drugs, sex, and high school football. It’s set mostly in 1968, and as I watched the muddied streams (TV, social media, social media on TV) of Ferguson, I thought of the sixties and asked, “What was the point?” I thought something in America changed, when, apparently, it didn’t. I should have set my novel in the present. I had wanted to remind people of what those times, when I was a boy, were like, and it seemed to have been meaningless because my television was showing me that it was the same, that nothing had changed, and that was very … depressing.

The police have become a branch of the military. It’s sort of like our Army exists as police in foreign conflicts, and the police exist as an army over here.

Something is out of whack, as the televised images suggest. No one offers any real vision of what is out of whack. Every scene is a snap judgment of its own, and no one is editing the raw material. Perspective is not only elusive. It has gone out of style.

This is happening. No, that is happening. What I originally said was happening, wasn’t happening, but when I said, it looked like it was happening. Each channel, each network, each corporate mindset, sent teams to say what they were going to say anyway, whether on the fiery streets of Ferguson or the glittering set of New York, Washington or Atlanta.

If I’d had to do it over, I think I might have looked at what the BBC had to say. I’m sure they think we Americans are out of control, and I’m sure they are right. We are an excitable bunch.

My novels, The Intangibles and The Audacity of Dope, are available here, as well as my other books about NASCAR and music:

Read my short stories at There’s a new one, “The Lucky Break.”

About Monte

For 20 seasons, I mostly wrote about NASCAR. I'm still paying attention, but I'm spending more of my time these days writing novels and songs. I try to blog regularly on whatever happens to strike my fancy.
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