Generation Terrorists

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American Gods
Neil Gaiman

The boundaries of our country, sir? Why sir, on the north we are bounded by the Aurora Borealis, on the east we are bounded by the rising sun, on the south we are bounded by the procession of the Equinoxes, and on the west by the Day of Judgement.

The American Joe Miller's Jest Book

'These are the gods that have passed out of memory. Even their names are lost. The people who worshipped them are as forgotten as their gods. Their totems are long since broken and cast down. Their last priests died without passing on their secrets.

Gods die. And when they truly die they are unmourned and unremembered. Ideas are more difficult to kill than people, but they can be killed, in the end.'

'This is the only country in the world that worries about what it is. The rest of them know what they are. No one ever needs to go searching for the heart of Norway. Or looks for the soul of Mozambique. They know what they are.'

'Aren't you going to show it to me? I'll show you mine,' said Shadow.

'A man's fortune is his own affair,' said Wednesday stiffly. 'I would not ask to see yours.'

'Let me tell you something. It can be along time between meals. Someone offers you food, you say yes. I'm no longer young as I was, but I can tell you this, you never say no to the opportunity to piss, to eat, or to get an half-hour's shut eye...'

'What do you sell?'

'Shit,' says Salim. 'Worthless gewgaws and baubles and tourist trinkets. Horrible, cheap, foolish, ugly shit.'

'You try to sell shit?'

'Yes,' said Salim, thrilled and horrid that he has spoken the truth about his brother-in-law's samples.

'And they will not buy it?'


'Strange. You look at the stores here, that is all they sell.'

'... People like to know what they are getting ahead of time. Thus, McDonald's, Wal-Mart, F.W. Woolworth: store-brands maintained and visible across the entire country. Wherever you go, you will get something that is, with small regional variations, the same.

'In the field of funeral homes, however, things are, perforce, different. You need to feel that you are getting small-town personal service from someone who has a calling to the profession. You want personal attention to you and your loved one in a time of great loss. You wish to know that your grief is happening on a local level, not a national one. But in all branches of industry - and death is an industry, my young friend, make no mistake about that - one makes one's money from operating in bulk, from buying in quantity, from centralising one's operations. It's not pretty, but it's true. Trouble is, no one wants to know that their loved ones are travelling in a cooler van to some big old converted warehouse where they may have twenty, fifty, or a hundred cadavers to go...

'So when big companies come in they buy the name of the company, they pay the funeral directors to stay on, they create the apparency of diversity. But that is merely the tip of the gravestone. In reality, they are as local as Burger King.'

'Women survive their men. Men - men like him - don't live long when their women are gone. You'll see. He'll start wandering, all the familiar things are going to be gone with her. He gets tired and he fades and then he gives up and then he's gone. Maybe pneumonia will take him or maybe it'll be cancer, or maybe his heart will stop. Old age, and all the fight gone out of you. Then you die.'

'... they changed the name from Kentucky Fried Chicken to KFC because they don't serve real chicken any more. It's become this genetically modified mutant thing, like a giant centipede with no head, just segment after segment of legs and breasts and wings. It's fed through nutrient tubes. This guy said the government wouldn't let them use the word chicken.'

'There's never been a true war that wasn't fought between two sets of people who were certain they were in the right. The really dangerous people believe that they are doing whatever they are doing solely and only because it is without question the right thing to do. And that is what makes them dangerous.'

'You are so full of shit it's a wonder your eyes don't turn brown.'

'I was wondering if you could solve a little argument we were having over here. My friend and I were disagreeing over what the word "Easter" means. Would you happen to know?'

'I don't know any of the Christian stuff. I'm a pagan.'

The woman behind the counter said, 'I think it's like Latin or something for "Christ has risen" maybe.'

'Really?' said Wednesday.

'Yeah, sure,' said the woman. 'Easter, just like the sun rises from the east, you know.'

'The risen son. Of course - a most logical supposition... And tell me, as a pagan, who do you worship?'


'That's right. I imagine you must have a pretty wide open field. So to whom do you set up your household altar? To whom do you bow down? To whom do you pray to at dawn and at dusk?'

'The female principle. It's an empowerment thing. You know.'

'Indeed. And this female principle of yours. Does she have a name?'

'She's the goddess within us all. She doesn't need a name.'

'Ah,' said Wednesday, with a wide monkey grin, 'so do you hold mighty bacchanals in her honour? Do you drink blood wine under the full moon, while scarlet candles burn in silver candle holders? Do you step naked into the seafoam, chanting ecstactically to your nameless goddess while the waves lick at your legs, lapping your thighs like the tongues of a thousand leopards?'

Religions are, by definition, metaphors after all: God is a dream, a hope, a woman, an ironist, a father, a city, a house of many rooms, a watchmaker who left his prize chronometer in the desert, someone who loves you - even, perhaps, against all evidence, a celestial being whose only interest is to make sure your football team, army, business, or marriage thrives, prospers and triumphs over all opposition.

'So now I'm living here in the north. Long away from white man's disease. White man's roads. White man's road signs. White man's yellow Miatas. White man's caramel popcorn.'

'White man's beer?'

Whiskey Jack looked at the can. 'When you people finally give up and go home, you can leave us the Budweiser breweries,' he said.

'... my people figured that maybe there's something at the back of it all, a creator, a great spirit, and so we say thank you to it, because it's always good to say thank you. But we never built churches. We didn't need to. The land was the church. The land was the religion. The land was older and wiser than the people who walked on it. It gave us salmon and corn and buffalo and passenger piegions. It gave us wild rice and walleye. It gave us melon and squash and turkey. And we were the children of the land, just like the porcupine and the skunk and the bluejay.'

'... it's not the fish you bring home from a day's fishing. It's the peace of mind.'

'... the only thing I've really learned about dealing with gods is that if you make a deal, you keep it. They get to break all the rules they want. We don't.'