Do most guys fantasize about playing God? Tom Matlack thinks so.
Imagine the guy in the Corvette who cuts you off---blown to bits. The boss who insults your intelligence---dead. Ex-wives everywhere---ceasing to exist. That guy at the gym, with the perfect body, chatting up your girlfriend? History. Mel Gibson, Lindsay Lohan, the cast of Dancing with the Stars, and every other detestable celebrity---gone. Child molesters, Ponzi scheme architects, and O.J. Simpson---burned at the stake.
Now imagine instead of American Idol, Simon Cowell comes out of retirement to dispense male cynicism in a show called American Idiot---with a panel that includes Darwin Awards creator Wendy Northcutt and Will Ferrell as Chazz Reinhold, the funeral-infatuated "wise" man from The Wedding Crashers. Just like Idol, there are recruiting sessions all around the country, but instead of recruiting talent, they recruit stupidity: old ladies beating their dogs, teenagers totaling their parents' cars while texting, mothers handing their panties to Twilight stars. The show culminates with a national vote that ranks the gravity of people's stupidity, and who should live or die for their crimes against humanity.
This is all part of the master plan of a retired friend of mine, Joe, who thinks we should institute a new holiday: National Murder Day. On that one day, you can kill anyone you want---with no consequences. (Joe is a bit twisted. A few years ago, as we drove past a secluded swamp, he mumbled, "Man, that would be a good place to hide a body.")
Despite his morbid sense of humor, Joe is a wonderful father and husband, and a great man---he's one of my best friends. I happen to be morally opposed to the death penalty; I find it sad that we are among the only First World countries to institutionalize death. That said, whenever Joe goes off on one of his tangents about the newest wrinkle of National Murder Day, it cracks me up.
Joe doesn't really want to kill anyone, of course. He wouldn't hurt a flea. He's just responding to the absurdity of our culture---one that rewards idiocy and amorality, and one in which, too often, good men finish last.
With our country and our culture adrift, it's easy to see why Joe would entertain a fantasy in which he plays God, setting right what we all know has gone so far off course. He does it with such a straight face, you'd almost think he's being serious. But he's not. He's just a funny bastard with a sick sense of humor.
Joe is hardly the only man to respond to his frustrations by fantasizing about violence. Two of my wealthiest friends share a common fear of our country descending into mob rule (like something out of Cormac McCarthy's The Road). Recently, they've been focused on finding secure food sources (one purchased a large farm with goats and chickens, and the other is looking hard.) They aren't looking to kill idiots, they just want to protect themselves from the idiots who---they imagine---will soon be trying to kill them.
In order to carry a concealed weapon in the state of Massachusetts, you need to go through a full-day training program, and pass a written exam. Despite the fact that I was born a Quaker and consider myself a pacifist, I decided to go with my two friends just to see what it was all about.
We spent eight hours in a retired state trooper's basement, with a cache of weapons that could take down a small country. I learned the difference between a Glock 19 and Smith & Wesson Magnum, about cleaning and reloading, and of course, shooting. I have to admit that holding a cold, heavy, death machine did have a momentary impact on my manhood. For a few seconds there, my balls felt a little bit bigger, as I held in my hand the instrument with which I could live out Joe's fantasy. Then I realized that my balls were the same size they'd always been, and put the thing down.
At the end of the day we took the exam. My buddies scored in the eighties (seventy-five percent is passing); I got a perfect score. They went on to buy weapons with stopping power, and shoot regularly. I was scared to get a gun myself, or even go to the shooting range, because the fantasy had become too real for my own comfort.
Instead of the shooting range, I deal with my frustration by working out, pushing myself ever harder in an attempt to silence the voices of rage in my brain.
On Sunday mornings, my trainer, a Russian bare-knuckle-boxer-turned-kickboxer named Konstantin Selivanov, pushes me to the brink of heart failure. He initially taught me how to handle myself in a fight, but now we focus on conditioning. We lift weights for an hour nonstop---and then things get serious. He has me toss a huge truck tire in my back yard as far as I can, like a discuss, then flip it end-over-end backwards over my head.
Next, he straps me into a vest, with a rope attached to the tire. I carry it over my head, down a treacherous path through the dunes to the Atlantic Ocean. He yells at me while I sprint along the beach, dragging the tire behind me. Inevitably some old lady walking the beach asks what the heck we're doing, as her dog cowers at the end of its leash. Konstantin will turn with his Russian mafia glare (he played the bad guy in Miss Congeniality) and say, "He's training for a fight." And I suppose I am, though, I'm no prize-fighter---I'm just a normal guy fighting his way through life.
By the end of my workout, I'm so spent I'm bordering on unconsciousness. I'm far too exhausted to contemplate murder.
National Murder Day isn't something I'd propose, but I understand where my buddy Joe is coming from. I think most guys have fantasized about playing God, and dramatically imposing their own sense of righteousness on the world. But I don't plan on killing anyone---or even buying a gun. I'll just keep dragging my tire down the beach.