Flying East

Clouds and airplane wing from plane window

In August 2009, I flew from New York to Cairo for the first time. I was headed east, and I traced the progress of my flight on my seat back monitor, following that little airplane icon across the Atlantic, through France and the lower part of Italy, just shy of the west coast of Greece, and over the Mediterranean to my endpoint in North Africa. During my two years in Egypt, I took the westbound flight home and then back east to Cairo a total of four times.

In January 2011, as Cairo descended into chaos in the wake of the Egyptian revolution, I flew further east to Vietnam to hide out at a friend’s place and secure a job for the following school year. Again, I watched on my in-flight monitor as the airplane icon moved eastward over Saudi Arabia and the southern edges of Iran and Pakistan before crossing the center of India and the Bay of Bengal and landing first in Bangkok and then, after a four-hour layover, in Ho Chi Minh City. A few weeks later, I flew west, back to a now liberated Cairo in the process of stabilizing after overthrowing its autocratic leader.

In August 2011, I flew from the States to Vietnam to begin my new job. This time I flew west to get there, from New York to Narita Airport in Japan and then to Ho Chi Minh City. The airplane icon representing my progress crossed Northern Canada and practically reached the North Pole and then moved across Alaska and the Bering Strait and through the farthest eastern edge of Russia on my way to Japan.

You could say I’ve reached Vietnam going both east and west or that I’ve orbited the Earth by plane, but given what I now know to be true, there’s only one conclusion I can draw: the airlines are in on it. They have to be. Those interactive map displays are nothing but a clever diversion, depicting our reality no better than a cartoon simulation or surrealist painting. Those smiling flight attendants who bring you your barely palatable in-flight meals and mini liquor bottles might not themselves know what’s going on, but the pilots must. How could they not?

When I still lived in the US, I knew a woman whose 16- year-old son was killed in a school shooting in the quiet Kentucky suburb in which she’d raised him and watched him grow up. She told me her son was shot to death hiding in a cabinet under a table in his 11th grade chemistry classroom and that the shooter was someone her son had known since 3rd grade. He’d been hit once in the head and twice in the chest and had been among the last to die before the shooter turned the gun on himself. She cried when she told me, and it was all I could do not to lose control myself and break down weeping at the horror of it all. I had to clear my mind and think of something neutral while she cried and rehashed all the brutal details right there in front of me.

Now, when I look back, I can’t believe how convincing she was. It makes me wonder if she herself was a professional actor or if her son had actually been taken away from her and placed in something like the witness protection program where he would be given a new identity and told he could never contact his grieving family again. It’s clear he hadn’t actually died that day. Why would anyone need to go that far?

Of course, it wouldn’t be unprecedented. I grew up believing that, on the day those buildings fell in New York City and 3,000 people died, it was a hostile foreign attack on our great nation. I was taught that there were good guys and bad guys, and that was a dichotomy that always comforted and made sense to me. I believed the official stories and took solace in the fact that my safety and security were provided for by a mostly benevolent ruling class. I laughed at the lazy intellectual nihilism of people who believed that there was no objective truth and pitied those who so readily accepted the confused reasoning of aliens, mythical creatures, second shooters, elite reptilian overlords, etc.

Now, it’s different. I look up into the sky in the middle of the day, and I see white contrails streaking the panorama. I run water from the tap, and I think of fluoridation and what’s really in our drinking supply. I think of all the mass produced genetically modified food we’re forced to consume and the medicines and vaccines we are mocked and shamed into taking for the greater good of the herd. I think of the newspapers and the television all singing the same cloying refrain: smile, consume, submit.

I don’t remember exactly when my eyes finally opened. It must have been after I repatriated to the States in 2015. I’d never been politically active or engaged and just sort of went along with the globalist neoliberal rhetoric of everyone I knew back home and abroad. Something changed in me that first year back stateside. I started to seek alternative viewpoints on my own and really research the issues on a deep level online instead of accepting the mediated simulacrum offered by the media.

Once I beheld the world as it really was, I didn’t like what I saw. The essential truths of existence are repeated so often they’re above questioning. They comprise our default assumptions upon which all new information is filtered. They’re as fundamental as north, south, east and west. But they’re also lies, which I can now clearly see. I sometimes wish I could return to that blissful ignorance of my first 30 years. I think I was happier then and less afraid. People say the truth will set you free, but I don’t think that’s true. I don’t feel free at all.

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