The Left’s hand-wringing in the wake of the GOP’s capture of Congress should be a precursor to some neck-ringing. Unfortunately, I don’t see anyone on the political landscape capable of forging an alternative to the status quo, which is the care and feeding of the United States of America Incorporated.
George W. Bush has given us the worst stock market since the Depression. He’s given us Enron, WorldCom and the ingeniously noble concept of military pre-emption. His own church has denounced his warmongering. Osama is unaccounted for. Bush can’t speak in complete sentences. He’s not qualified to run the Detroit Parks and Recreation Department.
Yet he’s a political juggernaut, the world’s putative beacon of freedom. Bush presides over bread and circuses and freak shows in a nation whose most vulnerable citizens refuse to participate in the electoral process. Their purported champions, the Democrats, can’t energize them because they don’t know them. The Democrats are too busy acting like Republicans, appeasing the moguls and suckling their campaign largess.
How did we get so embarrassingly gullible?
It’s the media, stupid. The watchdogs of democracy have instead become lapdogs guided by focus groups that inevitably migrate toward the basest instincts.
As I grasp for an explanation of last week’s vote, I am reminded of a 1992 essay penned by Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein. It was called “Idiot Culture.”
“For the first time in our history,” he carped, “the weird and the stupid and the coarse are becoming our cultural norm, even our cultural ideal. … In this new culture of journalistic titillation, we teach our readers and our viewers that the trivial is significant, that the lurid and the loopy are more important than real news.”
Not long after Bernstein so eloquently redefined our age, the media turned its resources on a little story called Whitewater. It evolved into Monica-gate and a presidential impeachment. It was laughable.
In retrospect, it’s easy to assume that Bill Clinton got a raw deal. But Clinton ultimately painted the target on himself. He erected the Big Top that housed his media circus. He crippled his own presidency and Al Gore’s chances with it. He squandered his golden opportunity and set the Democratic Party back significantly.
Clinton deserved what he got, even if we didn’t.
Bush, somehow, has been rendered immune from the same intense media scrutiny. It’s as though he’s not smart enough to be venal. He’s Teflon II.
His legerdemain is far more egregious — and he gleaned far more benefit from it than Bill and Hillary ever dreamt of. Bush’s improperly disclosed insider sale of illegally inflated stock in Harken Energy in 1990 paved the way for his investment in the Texas Rangers, his sale of his share of the Rangers for $15 million (most of the inflated value was derived from a publicly financed stadium), his run for the governorship of Texas (Enron honchos paid the way) and on and on ad nauseam.
Now the guy is telling us about corporate responsibility. The talking heads fawn, and I laugh.
Under this single-party system, the linchpin for meaningful change remains, in my view, campaign finance reform. You don’t see many stories on that these days. I spent 20 years in Arizona, and I know what a spiteful, petty SOB John McCain can be. (You’ll recall that McCain was financed by S&L poster crook Charles Keating.) Yet I’d vote for McCain for president solely because he has seen the light. He’s paying his penance. He understands that our system is paralyzed by money. He’s made campaign finance reform the foundation of his stewardship. He’s biting the hand that feeds him. The fact that McCain is a Republican is meaningless to me. The fact that most Republicans hate him is not.
Until the corrosive effects of money — both hard and soft — on the electoral process become a priority in the precincts and the news rooms, we’ll continue to read screaming Page One headlines about sports, a Red Wing player with a hangnail, another football coach getting fired. (Last week’s colossal “Sacked” headline in the Freep makes me wonder what treatment the paper is reserving for the apocalypse.)
We’ll also continue to see homogenized, spineless centrists in office, members of the one political party, the United States of America Incorporated.
And I’ll continue to laugh. It beats crying.
The crisp fall breeze brings vivid memories:
I am blocking on a Dakota pheasant hunt. I am a freshman in college, and my buddies are walking through a dry slough. It’s Sunday. The morning sky is leaden. It’s cold. The wind is in my face, carrying the vapor of my breath away. There’s a crust of snow on the ground. Ron is across the draw. Like me, he’s blocking, waiting to see if anything is scared up. I hear the guys down in the dry reeds, see their heads bobbing. They’re making a racket.
I have to piss. I lay down my Remington Wingmaster Pump-Action .12 Gauge and turn my back to the wind. I am making a yellow spot in the snow. Ron, who is a quiet guy, a master of understatement, says, quietly, “Heeeere they come.” I look back over my shoulder and see entire squadrons of ringed-neck pheasants. I have never seen so many pheasants while holding my member.
The sight of the pheasants, and the sound of them, flapping noisily as they rise from the reeds, is unimaginable. It’s the Holy Grail. The sky is a swarm of pheasants. Some of them have already flown over my head in a mocking fashion. Most of them are hens. Shotgun reports are sounding. It sounds like a combat zone.
I do what any Dakota boy in my position would do. I reach down and clutch my Remington Wingmaster Pump-Action .12 Gauge and raise it to my shoulder. I shoot. My dick is still hanging out and I’m shooting and pumping, shooting and pumping. It’s pathetically Freudian, though that doesn’t occur to me at the time. Wings are beating the air. Feathers are flying. Fat birds are thudding to the ground. Shotguns are sounding behind me.
I am now on the ground, screaming, because I have been hit. I’m sure I’ve been badly wounded. I am screaming like a little girl who has been shot who is laying face down in a patch of yellow snow with her penis hanging out.
But my jacket has absorbed most of the birdshot. A couple of pellets lodge in the nape of my neck, and they actually ooze a little blood. I am not really hurt at all.
My college buddies laugh at me and boast about how many birds they’ve dropped. I suspect they’re laughing because they dropped me as well. I am indignant, mostly because nobody apologizes. I want a Purple Heart. Somebody tells me to tape an aspirin to it.
I give the Remington Wingmaster Pump-Action .12 Gauge to my brother. The barrel blows up on him, but my brother is not hurt. I don’t understand what makes a barrel blow up.
I never go hunting again.Jeremy Voas is editor of Metro Times. E-mail [email protected]