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Postcard from the End of America: Trenton

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As its mayor tries to avoid prison, Trenton goes on falling apart. Leaving La Guira, I walked for miles through desolation and neglect, but it wasn't just that, for people still had to live here. Each day they had to walk past these empty, boarded up or overgrown homes. Some were trying to ward off the degradation and violence with positive messages. On Martin Luther King Boulevard, a home owner had hung up a pink banner with a white cross over a purple heart, "Love One Another. John 3:34." Not far away, I saw another banner on the wire fence of a garage. With two painted daisies, and lettering in four colors, it pleaded, "Can't we do something different for OUR FUTURE?"

Presently I came upon Olden Avenue, with its many Polish businesses, still thriving after many decades. Employing my standard salutation, I asked a man, "Hey, where can you get a drink around here?"

"Let me see. You can go to Stevie Teetz. It's just down the street. It's a strip bar!"

"Oh, man, I don't need no extra! I just want a beer!" In fact, I didn't even care for a beer, but one often talks just to talk, and in a strange neighborhood, sometimes one talks just to see how one is received. In any case, onward I marched, past Stevie Teetz, and finally out of Trenton altogether, into Ewing, where I saw an "ARMED FORCES CAREER CENTER" at a strip mall. A uniformed soldier was getting into his SUV, so I waited for him to drive away before taking out my camera. Post 9-11, soldiers are often found in public, so it's no longer a surprise to find yourself in the International House of Pancakes, for example, next to a crowded table of soldiers, and they won't be in dress uniforms but battle fatigues. On TV, soldiers are also often inserted into commercials, newscasts, political events or sporting contests. This is done to remind us that we're in an endless war and, more importantly, to condition citizens into accepting the presence of soldiers in civilian settings. The relentless erosion of the Posse Comitatus Act is mostly done on a visual and psychological level, for now, but already one sees soldiers with live weapons where they have no rights to be, but then the Constitution is but a quaint myth in contemporary America. Hardly anyone cares about it, not the Obama apologists, and certainly not our mesmerized youths with their eyes glued to Miley Cyrus' ass. Children reared on Hannah Montana can now follow their sexually deranged, hair-horned and tongue wagging idol into a psychotic adulthood. Peace! God!

I took my photos in full view of the recruiting office's plate glass windows, with who knows how many eyes behind them, so within seconds, a uniformed soldier appeared to say that that was not allowed, so I smiled, apologized then walked away. He also smiled. After I had gone about twenty yards, however, and was already past the back of this building, two more soldiers came running out, with one asking me to stop, which I did. When he asked me my name, I readily gave it to him, though I really didn't have to, as he had no jurisdiction over anyone in this civilian setting. I knew I had done nothing illegal, as taking photos in public is never against the law, though it may sometimes be rude. A second soldier then demanded I deleted my photos of the recruiting office, which I did, as he watched. (I knew I could still retrieve these images later, as long as I didn't shoot over them.) By this time, a third, older soldier had appeared, so four well-trained, gung-ho combatants had so far been dispatched to handle one dumbass, middle-aged retard with his beat up, often repaired camera with a dusty lens and missing eye piece. If they could get so excited over a harmless American at some stupid Jersey strip mall, imagine their possibly lethal overreaction to anything remotely suspicious in, say, Afghanistan or Iraq? There, even a munchkin raising a lollipop to his mouth might make one our brave heroes jump, holler and discharge.

Faced with this farcical situation, I laughed, shook my head and told the soldiers, "This is ridiculous. You will go to bed tonight thinking how absurd this is." That's when they gave me the predictable line about the heightened alert needed against the threat of terrorism, but I said a terrorist would not need to take a photo of their office, especially with a huge camera and standing in full view of their plate glass windows. As I've pointed out before, you can bomb a place just fine without snapping photos of it beforehand, but if you must scope out a public target, you can just stroll by and look at it, or you can go on Google Maps and get all the information you need about its exterior.

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Back and forth we went, with a soldier telling me that "it is illegal to take photos of a federal building," which is not correct, or all those thousands of tourists snapping photos daily of the Capitol, White House and countless other buildings should be arrested immediately. One of the grunts wanted to walk back in, but the other was becoming quite heated, maybe because I had said, "You guys are being brainwashed into becoming so paranoid. Don't you see how ridiculous this is?" When the pissed one snapped, "I'm defending our country," I responded, "You're not defending anything! You've been standing out here harassing me!"

"Call the cops," he said to his more composed partner.

"Call the cops for what?!" I smirked. "What am I doing that's illegal?"

To intimidate me, the other guy did pretend to use his cell phone, but he ended up not calling anyone, and they finally walked back inside.

If this was Iraq, Afghanistan or, hell, Southeast Asia a generation ago, a smart mouth like me might be laid to rest in several chunks, then pissed on, but since this was only New Jersey in 2013, I have lived to relate this tiresome tale. Soon enough, though, these jumpy fellows will be well armed and blazing within your earshot, right here, in the Homeland.

The War on Terror has been incoherent and nonsensical from the beginning. On the pretext of going after Bin Laden, a known CIA asset, the US invaded Afghanistan, then it attacked Saddam Hussein, whom it had propped up for decades, and now Washington is openly supporting terrorists in its war against Syria. On the home front, every terror plot going back to 9-11 has either been abetted by Washington, at the very least, if not entirely schemed by it. In Portland and Cherry Hill, such plots were used to entrap innocents, while in Boston, it was to frame its own assets while terrorizing the entire country, all for propaganda purposes. In short, the US can't be fighting terror when it is the world's most prolific and relentless generator of terror. Without terror, America would be out of business, literally. As the US is about to rachet up considerably the terror it has been unleashing on Syria, all Americans should feel sick to their stomachs, but most of us will simply sit back and watch, in boredom or great excitement, and when tired of this extra bloody entertainment, we'll yawn and switch back to our regular programming.

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Linh Dinh is tracking our deteriorating social scape through his frequently updated photo blog, Postcards from the End of America . He is the author of two books of stories, five of poems, and a just released novel, (more...)

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while the US prepares to overtly intervene in a wa... by mhenriday on Thursday, Aug 29, 2013 at 6:26:05 AM
month's best.... by molly cruz on Thursday, Aug 29, 2013 at 8:23:35 AM
Thank you, Linh Dinh for my reality fix that I loo... by E. T. SIMON on Saturday, Aug 31, 2013 at 1:24:47 AM
We see the waste, the downtrodden, the abuses, the... by E. T. SIMON on Saturday, Aug 31, 2013 at 1:25:53 AM
Roam the streets ... Over 700 previously owned and... by E. T. SIMON on Saturday, Aug 31, 2013 at 7:37:41 PM