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)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

FOR THE BIRDS: Roman legend has it, and a place as old as Rome has legends the way my brother has gambling debts, that at least one of the early medieval Popes got the job when a bird, no doubt tuckered out from a long day’s migrating from hither to yon, decided that the bare pate of the nearest non-avian cardinal was the perfect place to set itself down for a moment’s rest and a bowel movement before heading off to more familiar parts. Why any bird would choose a Christian hierarch’s noggin as a rest stop in the first place is a question best left to the theologians; it is history that matters here, not dogma, and it is history that the crowd of illiterate, superstitious peasants who saw the bird cop a squat on his Eminence’s skull immediately interpreted this as a sign from the Holy Spirit and demanded the cardinal’s immediate elevation to the Papacy. The College of Cardinals, an educational institution full of extremely learned gentlemen who’d matriculated in, among other subjects, the study of what happened to distinguished clerics who irked the tender sensibilities of the Roman mob, voted to save their skins and made their crap-spattered brother Pope forthwith, after which they beat a hasty retreat out of town before the mob changed its mind. Clearly, the theological implications of irregularity in migrating birds need not concern us here, but I believe that if we leave the metaphysics to those interested in such speculation and treat the matter in practical political terms, we can see a solution to the ongoing crisis of confidence that faces American democracy today.

It is clear, I think, that the vast majority of people in this country today cannot, in any meaningful way, separate their narrow self-interest from their political outlook, even if it is in the long term interest of the nation that they do so, and it is equally clear that no politician will vote for what they think is in the long term interests of the nation so long as they must endlessly truckle to the short term interests of powerful political pressure groups in order to get re-elected. The whole system being for the birds, I believe that it is now high time that we end the never-ending farce of modern American political life and have the birds to choose our leaders for us. No other single step will so radically change the American political landscape or so conclusively end the baneful influences of the special interest groups on our elections as this one will.

The benefits of transforming our democratic republic into an ornithological republic are, I believe, almost too numerous to enumerate, much less dispute, so let us simply look at the most beneficial reasons. First, a functioning aviocracy eliminates, once and for all, the power of special interests to influence elections. What possible favors can a defense contractor already five years behind schedule designing a new weapons system do for an Attwater’s prairie chicken to induce them to favor a candidate who wants the program to continue? How do the AFL—CIO, the drug companies, Big Oil, or all three together influence the vote of a turkey buzzard that doesn’t have a job, medical insurance, or a car? By running a negative ad campaign? Turkey buzzards don’t have televisions, don’t read the newspapers, don’t speak much English, and regard billboards as a convenient place to sit and wait for roadkill to happen. Birds, as you can see from these two examples, are the perfect political animal; they are both uninterested and disinterested, just as most of the current electorate is, but they are too stupid to bribe and they know nothing about anything, which places them beyond the reach of ideologues, demagogues, and the pedagogues’ union. The only human demographic cohort with similar political advantages are teenagers, and they come with the unfortunate disadvantages of being vaguely understandable from time to time and needing to have someone else do their laundry on a more or less constant basis.

Having set forth the perfect political solution to our political problems, you may be asking yourself, and if you’re not, you ought to be, asking yourself just how does a constitutional aviocracy choose its leaders? In such a system, the current system of a long, drawn-out primary campaign leading to a completely uninteresting party convention and then to the general election would come to a swift end. Primaries, being henceforth unnecessary, even for entertainment purposes, would go the way of all flesh, and every four years thousands of candidates from across the length and breadth of this our Great Republic would flock to San Juan Capistrano, California, and Hinckley, Ohio, in order to woo the most important voters in the land. Now, the politically correct among us will, no doubt, wonder why the new system privileges swallows and vultures over such other worthy species as the bald eagle, the blue jay, and that perennial Washington favorite, the yellow-bellied whistleblower, but there are symbolic as well as practical reasons for these selections. Symbolically, Americans will have the chose of voting for the party of the swallows, the party of a bright and sunshiny morning in America, or the party of the vultures, the party that feeds well upon the soft and morbid carcass of government. But my apologies to one and all here; I digress now into a narrow and wanton spirit of partisanship and that was not my intent.

In practical terms, the candidates would be going to the two places in the United States that would best enhance their chances of a bird landing on their heads and then evacuating its bowels. Other places may also offer great opportunities in this area, of course; one need only think of New York City, for instance, and its large pigeon population, affectionately known to all New Yorkers as rats with wings, and who have shown over and over again over the centuries that they are willing to unload on just about anyone they take a notion to unload on. The problem for the Big Apple’s pigeons and their chances to become the nation’s political kingmakers are falcons, specifically peregrine falcons. The skies over the city are growing ever more dangerous for pigeons, especially over the city’s parks, what with the falcons swooping down on the pigeons and eating them as the pigeons try to eat the stale bread crumbs the old ladies sitting on the park benches throw on the sidewalk for them. The pigeon community has had enough of these predators and wants some action from the Mayor’s Office and the NYPD, but as yet the police have done nothing. Until the police do something about the falcon situation, New York City’s pigeons will lead increasingly stressful lives, and a stressed out pigeon is not the best arbiter of the country’s political future. In Ohio and California, on the other hand, the birds return in such great numbers that the loss of a few to predators, however personally regrettable the loss is on an individual level, is not enough to affect the political thinking of the flock as a whole.

This leads inevitably to the question of just how the birds will choose our nation’s leaders. The procedure under the new dispensation will be very close to the procedure that so successfully elected Pope Whoever the Whatever all those centuries ago, with the necessary allowances made for the separation of Church and State. This method caused no end of controversy in the Bible Belt at first, where many saw it as entirely too Papistical in character, but none of the alternative schemes proved workable and so the papal procedure won the day by default. In a nutshell, everyone who wants to be President would go to the town of their choice and allow as many birds as possible to land on their heads and evacuate on them. At the end of Election Day, the most physically noisome candidate would be president. Morally noisome candidates, on the other hand, would get positions as studio executives in the motion picture industry.

This plan is workable, I believe, and will go a long way to eliminate the bitter partisan divisions that rack our poor country today. By handing our future over to the birds, we make our country stronger than ever before and we step forward into a bright multispecial world. Some will say that America is not ready for the birds, but the birds are ready now. It is only a matter of time and political courage for us to acknowledge that fact and to act upon it.

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