Pastor Pillow is satire—although for those of us who grew up in right-wing Evangelical circles, the verbal cartoon hits pretty close to the faith-healing, glossolalia, Prosperity Gospel tithe-me-a-mansion mark. As I explained to a group of level-headed Episcopalians this past week, the purpose of satire is to blow up a thing like a balloon in order to better examine its shape and contours. One minute it’s a plaid-patterned fabric gas bag heap, the next minute it’s a bagpiping Scotsman floating over Edinburgh. But until you added the hot air, you had no idea.
Pastor Pillow always takes one step beyond where you think televangelists and snake handlers and presidents of the Creation Museum will actually go—until you actually see them go there.
Back in August, I took a stab at penning some Pastor Pillow satire about Ferguson:
While confined in this dank Ferguson jail cell following devout and bare-skinned acts of ministry in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ …
Pastor Pillow gets arrested in Ferguson while coordinating a church softball game fundraiser aimed at supporting the Ferguson police department; in jail, he pens a letter to his wife while kicking back in a $1,250 Lovesac bean bag. Since then, we witnessed the big tent antics of St. Louis County Prosecutor and Ringmaster Bob McCullough and his troupe of grand jury clowns tooting judicial kazoos in support of Officer Darren Wilson’s marksmanship.
Thus, everything seemed primed for me to take another stab at Ferguson. I sat down to write, but nothing happened. The problem wasn’t writer’s block. In my mind, I conceived a clip about CZC Ministries teaming up with Westboro Baptist Church, the Klan and the descendants of Augosto Pinochet and Francois Duvalier to host a potluck fundraiser for Officer Wilson’s retirement party. One of the party games would have included Pin the Remington High Terminal Performance .38 Special 125 Grain +P Semi-Jacketed Hollow Point Bullet on the African-American Rising College Freshman.
Sadly, I couldn’t write on the subject because I realized that when it comes to police brutality, our country is now way beyond satire. (There are even several Wikipedia articles devoted expressly to police brutality in the United States.) Satire makes sense when hope remains. Yet to my mind, there is no longer hope. I mean, there’s hope a la Star Wars, Episode IV—as in, eventually we can get out of the civilization hole we’ve dug for ourselves. But there’s no longer any point in acting like we haven’t already capitulated to becoming a police state, of sorts. But like everything else with the United States of America, we can’t even have a normal police state. Welcome to the world’s first Disorganized Police State.
In a traditional police state, the Tonton Macoutes with machetes answer to the big voodoo daddy in the Presidential Palace. Everyone knows his or her place. There are no constitutional precepts that promise “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” And when you’re picked up at random off the street and dragged off to some torture chamber, it’s usually for the purpose of instilling fear among the general populace and eyes-on-the-ground servitude to the state.
But what’s the point of the American police state? What’s the purpose of the gradual paramilitarizing of American police forces through the War on Drugs and subsequently the post-Patriot Act War on Islam? (No one actually calls it that, do they? But can you think of another reason our police departments are flush with mine-resistant ambush protected [MRAP] vehicles?) Are we enabling a bully police force in order to perpetuate the military industrial complex? Is it to keep at bay those minorities whom Uncle Sam didn’t determine were human beings until a century after our nation was even founded? Maybe it’s to give Anabaptists one last fighting chance before the inevitable United Colors of Benetton ethnic takeover?
Who knows? Sigh. Let’s change the subject a bit. I’d like to avoid getting pulled over later this week because of a missing taillight and never be heard from again.
I find it depressing that half the country was chomping at the bit hoping for looting to occur in the suburbs of St. Louis following the grand jury decision. Even National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” led with coverage about the Ferguson looting—not about the grand jury decision. As a culture, we were more concerned with the reaction than the decision.
And why not? Looting is easy to cover—even for radio journalists. At least the Boston Tea Party looters (yeah, we forget about that, don’t we?) had the decency to dispose of their ill-gotten East India Company goods into the sea. Never mind that, everyone loves a good bonfire.
Sheesh, how do you pan Ferguson at this point? I keep seeing an image in my head of white supremacist children dressed as Hitlerjugend heading in buses to Ferguson to make S’mores.
Or, maybe you don’t pan it. You don’t pan it because you realize that the country that invented the superhero, that liberated the concentration camps, is now under investigation by the United Nations for police brutality and inhumane prison conditions.
You don’t pan it because you realize that the State of Missouri, as well as other states, continue to keep on their books statutes (see Missouri Sec 563.046.2) that permit law enforcement officers to engage in “deadly force” against suspected felony offenders. Thankfully the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against such police state-friendly statutes nearly 30 years ago. But even when the Missouri criminal code is revised in 2017, this statutory language will remain.
Well, here we are. Tonight I pen this article from the sixth floor of an indoor water park in the Redneck Riviera. I’m surrounded by putt-putt golf courses and pancake houses and yet still I cannot bring myself to take on my Pastor Pillow persona.
As I type, the patio door is open. I hear the ocean waves lapping against the sand. For billions of years, waves have hit this shore. They will continue to do so for billions more. At least something is older and more consistent than human hate.
In addition to that “Pastor Pillow’s Lovesac Letter from Ferguson Jail” column I wrote back in August, I also penned an article called “The Death of Officer Friendly.” In it, I shared my fears that:
As a nation, we suddenly seem collectively aware that we are the frog boiled slowly. Something has happened to local law enforcement since September 11, 2001. I don’t seem to remember cops wearing quite so much tactical body armor when I was a kid. It’s as if the nation turned the page to a new chapter, titled “Ferguson,” only to discover that the word Orwellian is no longer science fiction. And we have NO DAMNED IDEA who’s in charge…
I think I made some other relevant observations in that article, including the following:
I want to believe in the general goodness of law enforcement officers. But they’re just ordinary men and women. And rather than training them to rely on non-violent means to maintain the peace, over the past decade especially, the system has stoked their GI Joe fantasies with unbelievable caches of armaments. And it’s not as if the system incentivizes education, either. Perhaps instead of sending our officers to train in Israel, we should sign them up for liberal arts training? Don’t knock it. Critical thinking has saved the day in this world more times than you can imagine. If our cops were Officer-PhDs—yeah, talk about a Dredd fantasy.
I’m going to leave you now. I’m going to sit on my hotel patio and listen to the ocean waves. And I’m going to listen to an old track laid down by soul singer Billy Paul in 1973. It’s called “Peace Holy Peace.” Tonight, it’s about the only thing that makes sense. See, hope remains.
Please open your hymnals to No. 33.
That’s a wrap.
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