The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

CAMPAIGN POSITIONS: Unlike many Democrats, I don’t think about politics morning, noon, and night, even if I am running for my party’s nomination in 2060. This shocks many of my fellow Democrats, for whom politics is not merely a way of wrapping peculation in a sugary but otherwise wholesome covering of chocolate and patriotism, but provides a reason for existence itself. I suppose that one of the benefits of the long 2060 election cycle is that, on occasion, I and my fellow candidates for the nomination get a chance to do other things, like go with the family to the beach, see a movie, or read the paper with some other motive than to see how we’re doing in the polls (I am not doing so well, but I ascribe this to the New York Times’ ongoing embargo of news concerning my candidacy). This is certainly useful for any Presidential candidate; it gives a view of the country and the world that we would otherwise lose amid the constant pressure of campaigning, speechmaking, and reading position papers, campaign strategy memos, and the ingredients on the sides of cereal boxes. Sometimes this down time will even lead to a startling moment of discovery or even provide an idea that might help the campaign. In that case, it is best to strike while the iron is hot, as the old saw has it, and declare your support of the idea before any of your opponents gets to it first and has the sheer unmitigated gall (just for the sake of curiosity, is there such a thing as mitigated gall? If there is, I have not heard of it, but then I lead a very sheltered life) to swipe the idea right out from underneath your nose.

So it was just the other day, when I read in the paper that the government of the People’s Republic of China announced that it and not the Dalai Lama will decide all questions resulting from the unfortunate tendency of certain deceased Tibetan religious leaders to reincarnate themselves in areas outside the reach of the Chinese secret police and most debt collection agencies. This causes the Chinese government no end of distress, as the deceased lama almost invariably leaves a house full of stuff for someone else to sort through and leads the impartial observer inevitably to the suspicion that the lamas have found a somewhat offbeat way of not paying their income taxes. That the government of the People’s Republic does not officially believe in reincarnation in particular or religion in general makes little difference; that government does not really believe in its own founding ideology, either, and seems to be getting on quite well without it, thank you very much. Whatever its ideology, however, the Chinese government insists on its right to control the lives of its citizens, no matter which life they happen to be in at the moment.

I was gobsmacked. The sheer brilliance of the idea stunned me when I first read it, and it stuns me even now that no Democrat has had the wit to see this simple solution to many of the pressing social needs of our time. Therefore, let me be the first Democrat to announce that I fully support government regulation of reincarnation and the equitable redistribution of good karma to those who have had to do without it for much too long. That this is necessary for the long range social health of this our Great Republic is so obvious that it should not require explanation, but let me just say that the centerpiece of any effort to make reincarnation more fair is the need to remove karma from the chaotic effects of the free market. Karma, for those of you unfamiliar with the concept, is the Buddhist tenet that what you do in this life governs what happens to you in your next life. A good life begets good karma and hence an even better next life, while an evil life brings suffering and pain in your next incarnation. The whole objective of this cycle of life, suffering, death, and rebirth is the eventual extinction of the individual consciousness in Nirvana, or the E Street Band, if you’re my age, either one being a state of perfect bliss. There are even some great souls who, although entitled to enter this state of perfect bliss, do not, preferring to remain in the cycle of life and death in order to help their fellow human beings reach Nirvana. These great souls are the bodhisattvas, and it is their role that the Chinese government now insists on assuming.

Let me reiterate something here: I do not understand why no Democrat has ever come out in favor of this idea before. Clearly, if we, as Democrats, want to make life more fair and equitable for the great mass of our fellow Americans, which, as Democrats, surely we must, then we must reform the current unfair system of apportioning karma in this country. Relying on the free market and the occasional bodhisattva is no longer enough; the government must step in and regulate the market. Government regulation of karma and reincarnation assures, at long last, the equitable treatment everyone deserves. The bodhisattvas will, at last, be able to move into the eternal bliss of Nirvana that their good actions have earned for them, which has the added benefit of removing them from the scene in such a way that they will not be around to demand the accumulated Social Security checks the government owes them for all of their past lives.

There will be, no doubt about it, the usual carping from the Republicans, who will blather on about the free market and individual responsibility for their own karma and how Democrats are once again instituting another big expensive government bureaucracy without any idea of how the government intends to pay for it beyond jacking everyone’s taxes through the roof, but this, frankly, is just the sort of thing you can expect from a party dedicated to perpetuating societal inequities from one life to the next. Let’s take a look at the karmic free market: poverty and war are still with us, injustice and racism are still with us, the Boston Red Sox and their minions are still with us. Can anyone really say that the vagaries of unregulated karma have been beneficial to the broad spectrum of American citizens? I think we all know the answer to that question.

With government regulation of karma, it will finally be possible to tackle many of the social problems that have, for far too long, plagued our country. Racism will fall by the wayside when the government can guarantee our African American citizens that not only will the government guarantee their equality with white citizens in this life, it can even guarantee that in their next life they will be white as well, despite the bitter cries of reverse discrimination from people who have been white for at least their last five or six lives and have no intention of sharing the whiteness with others. Our traditional supporters in the labor movement will be happy to know that, when I am President, my administration will guarantee that no American worker will be reborn as an Indian or Chinese worker making less than the union wage and that the shameful outsourcing of American souls to foreign countries will cease on the first day of my Presidency. I pledge to all Americans right here and right now: no American will be reborn as a foreigner unless that is their choice and that I will strive to amend the Constitution so that all persons born in the United States shall be reborn in the United States. And I will make sure that the teachers’ unions that there will be more money for teachers and smaller class sizes as well; it has nothing really to do with karma—it’s what they always want and so supporting this is a no-brainer, even if by 2060 class sizes should be so small that there’s no one actually in the classroom.

In any case, regulating karma will lead to a golden age in this country, and provided we can keep control of Congress and the Presidency, for the Democratic Party too; if we can control the bureaucracy that regulates the outflow of karma, we can create enough Democratic voters to keep us in the majority for a very long time to come. It’s not every presidential candidate who can tell his party that if you vote for me in 2060, I will guarantee our party wins the Presidency in 2160 and 2260 and so on and so forth. This was a wonderful idea, even if it was Made in China, and I think we ought to do something about it before anyone can get good karma down at Wal-Mart.

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