Off the prigs

When one of the new nickels showed up in my change, someone pointed out that the buffalo on the back stands intact, vividly displaying his admirable, ground-scraping buffalo-ness. “I’m surprised they let that go,” he said.

Yes, they. You’d think there were a lot of them, their works are so widespread. They’re the ones who applauded when U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft tapped the treasury for $8,000 to hang drapes around the semi-nude statue, “Spirit of Justice,” that happened to be the backdrop for press brief-ings. The sculpture stood largely unnoticed — except for schoolboy pranks by the press corps — until a truly creepy guy decided he’s shamed and embarrassed — perhaps stirred? — by a form of classic beauty that’s stood the test of centuries and, like the ghost of Queen Victoria, covers it up.

They’re the ones who scared both the crap and the sense out of TV and radio network execs after Janet Jackson freed her surgically enhanced, bejeweled but time-ravaged dug during last year’s Super Bowl halftime. Good gravy, our entire moral compass was set off-point with that one.

The mouthy minority were feeling their oats, recognized an enormous portal when they saw it, and marched through it like good gay-hating, gun-loving, illegal immigrant-employing, border-closing, anti-abortion, anti-contraception, alcohol-swilling, anti-drug, kill-for-God, vote-for-Bush Christian soldiers. And they made it clear to us that they weren’t done yet. Not by a long shot.

We, they said, would much rather listen to neo-con demagogues spew hate and grossly wealthy, breathtakingly hypocritical evangelists twist scripture than Howard Stern spew sex jokes — and you should too. We, they said, value the uncertain potential of an embryo over that of a physically tortured, living human, so we think some promising scientific research must be curtailed or outlawed — and so should you.

We, they said, believe that two people of the same sex, no matter how much they think they’re in love, are an abomination and certainly unfit to raise a child or otherwise enjoy the benefits of “normal” society — and so should you. They get a little confused about faith-based initiatives and organizations. Letting fundamentalists dictate curriculum in public schools is fine, they say, but setting fire to a cross in someone’s front yard to show that God’s wrath is behind the Ku Klux Klan isn’t, is it?

We’re scared to death by the terrorist threat, so if we have to give up some personal freedoms and let a small group of powerful zealots invade our privacy; collect and store information about us, our habits and our associates; put us under general surveillance on public streets, in parks, in shopping malls, online and while we travel; well, it’s a small price to pay for armed invasions of other countries to spread the freedoms that we’re giving away wholesale at home.

They’ve squelched political controversy in comedy. They’ve thrown in their backing for costly financial shelters that, if you can afford to set up and maintain them, let captains of industry and filthy-rich televangelists plan ahead for bankruptcy and put their assets out of the reach of creditors and the government they back so loudly. Now they’re busily at work “sanitizing” existing movies that contain things they find offensive.

They are in control. They are telling you and me and everyone else in this country what we can watch and listen to, what we can say and do.

And we are doing nothing because — how do they put it? — we have nothing to fear if we’re doing nothing wrong. If you don’t know what that might be, don’t worry about that either. They’ll tell you.

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