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 30, 2008

HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE: Now, you may find this a little hard to believe, but gentrification has had some fairly unusual effects here in our happy little burg. In the years since our economic turnaround began, we’ve had an influx of people from the metropolis to the south. Most of these folks are artists of one sort or another, the type of people who refer to well-known holes in the wall as spaces and who often wonder aloud why they can’t buy their favorite coffee here. Their favorite coffee often has a very long name, which causes no end of confusion hereabouts, as most of the indigenous population thinks of coffee as a beverage that either comes black or with cream and sugar. But what really sets the gentrifiers off from the gentrified is the worldview of the former. They are a well-traveled, cosmopolitan lot, on the whole, dropping the names of obscure Parisian restaurants in conversation in much the same way as our stout yeomanry drop dollar bills on the lottery and nodding knowingly at the mention of artists whose work is so obscure that their parents haven’t heard of it yet. With all of this sophistication, you may well wonder why these people would want to spend any amount of time with a provincial yutz like me. The answer, I’ve found, is that for all of their worldliness and sophistication, most of these people have never actually met a Republican.

Yes, it is a good time to be a Republican here in our happy little burg; I know that my party registration has improved my social life immeasurably these past years and I am positive that being a Republican can do wonders for your social life as well. Rock-ribbed Republicanism will help you get girls and be the life of any party you attend. It won’t help you clear up your skin, of course, but in the main, you will be a more exciting, more fascinating person when you finally stop procrastinating and register in the GOP.

You are probably asking yourself, but Akaky, how is this possible? I’ve tried everything from industrial strength Clearasil to online blind dating with Filipino transsexual lesbian dwarves to improve my social life, how will my being a Republican make me a more interesting person and help me score with chicks, which, as we all know, is the main purpose of any male’s social life, no matter what their party affiliation. Let me explain what happened to my social life.

The vast majority of our gentrifying influx was, as mentioned, from the metropolis, a well-known one party state where Republican are few and far between, and when they do win elections, they have to compromise on vast swathes of the GOP agenda and pretend that they meant to register Democratic when they were filling out the voter registration form but that the form was confusing and the guy in front of them in line farted loudly and so they accidentally checked the wrong box. So most of our gentrifying influx has never actually met anyone who fundamentally disagrees with just about everything they hold near and dear to their hearts. Your average cosmopolitan knows that Republicans exist, of course, but they know that they will probably never meet one in the course of the day and so long as they remain ensconced in their island home they need never think about such people. So they ignore them, and by them I mean people like me, in much the same way that a Cairene ignores the Great Pyramid of Giza or a hungry dieter ignores the food pyramid with pepperoni pizza. But when the siren song of modern art calls to the cosmopolite, they must follow, even if it leads to our happy little burg, which hasn’t gone Democratic in a presidential race since Zachary Taylor won handily here in 1848. This was an anomaly, of course, and one the local historical society usually attributes to Taylor’s enthusiastic support among local Mexican War veterans. Faced for the first time in their adult lives with the much dreaded Other, many a curious cosmopolite will seek to grasp just why it is that the natives believe in the odd things they believe in and so they often ask me to explain the hows and the whys of what is going on here.

I don’t mind, of course; many of these people are quite sincere in their curiosity, although I am also quite sure that many others invite me along merely to shock their friends and add a bit of a political frisson to their dinner parties. It seems a strange fate for any Republican to be a suces de scandale, but it seems I have managed this difficult task on more than one occasion. I am not sure how I managed to get the job as token Republican in the first place; I suppose that some of my Democratic friends recommended me as someone who was reasonably intelligent, reasonably knowledgeable about what’s going on in the world these days, and could be trusted not to blow my nose in the tablecloth between the soup and the main course.

In some ways, of course, I am a bit of a disappointment. I am not, for example, a member of the National Rifle Association. In fact, I do not own any firearms at all—I am, however, like a good many other civil servants, a dangerous man with a rubber band and a paper clip—and I have experienced my share of crestfallen looks from people who thought that I must, like the Republicans they’ve seen on television, have several years worth of canned goods next to the arsenal I have stashed in my own personal bomb shelter. I don’t actually have a bomb shelter, either, and this and the fact that I believe that if you wish to possess0 a 155mm howitzer of your very own, then the government ought to take a polite interest in what you intend to do with the thing (you might, for example, be planning to overthrow the constitutionally elected government of our happy little burg, or worse, plan to do a little target practice on Saturday mornings when I am trying to get some sleep), has led more than a few people to believe that I am not really a Republican at all. Nor am I an evangelical Christian and I am not completely sure I could identify with any degree of certainty the significant theological points of contention and agreement between Fundamentalists and Pentecostals, except for a somewhat unfortunate taste in hair styling. I suppose I am not atavistic enough.

Still, I’ve learned over the years that one mustn’t completely dash people’s illusions, and I have managed to epater les avant-garde on more than one occasion. There’s nothing quite like the reaction one gets from pointing out to some cosmopolite with a home in Vermont who has just spent an hour expounding on the racial problem here in AmeriKKKa that the reason many white liberals love living in Vermont is that it gives them the opportunity to decry AmeriKKKa’s racist treatment of African-Americans for hours on end without having to live anywhere near actual African-Americans. The sound made on one of these occasions is a sort of a low moan, similar, I think, to the sound one makes when you step out of a car wearing brand new shoes and step right into a pile of fresh dog crap. Your average host or hostess loves this sort of political spat; it livens up the conversation in what, in other circumstances, would have been yet one more dull dinner party. They’ll denounce my obvious idiocy—this simply goes without saying, naturally; they have to keep their Vermont friend happy too, you know—and it almost certainly means another dinner invitation in the not so near future so that I can politely mock the shibboleths that they and their friends hold most dear. Hearing someone praise Karl Rove can be a mind-altering experience for some people, however common such praise may be in some GOP quarters. I guess everything sounds a bit shocking if you’ve never heard it before.

My perplexing adherence to what these folks often refer to as the Repugnicans, the Rethuglicans, etc. causes no end of cognitive dissonance among the cosmopolitan population—they think, of course, that by all rights, I ought to be a Democrat, the same as them, and they will often ask, in their confusion, if there is anything I wouldn’t do for the GOP? To comfort them I say, yes, there is: I will not give money to a candidate for political office, even to a Republican candidate. You may not have noticed this, but campaign contributions only encourage politicians, a particularly noxious breed of peculating parasite, to run for political office in order to do whatever it is they do on the public payroll, and to continue to run for office long after the rest of the population has gotten tired of listening to them and wish that they would simply go away and leave the rest of us alone. Our Great Republic will only survive if and when vast numbers of American citizens treat running for public office in the same way that they treat jury duty: as an onerous task to be avoided whenever possible, and if political office becomes inevitable, to be gotten out of as soon as possible. I mean, really, would you want the leader of the Free World to be someone too dumb to get out of being President? I didn’t think so.

Labels: , , ,


Saturday, September 27, 2008

CRIME WAVE: In my role here as roving reporter for The Passing Parade, I recently interviewed Detective Sergeant Halloran of our happy little burg’s elite detective squad, if you can call four guys and a police dog a squad. Sgt. Halloran is a cheery soul, which belies his skill as an investigator, and he is one of the few members of our local gendarmerie who is not currently suing City Hall for one thing or another. Suing City Hall is one of our police department’s more benign pastimes, quite unlike their habit of turning police dogs loose in school playgrounds and then picking off the chunkier kids with high-powered rifles as they try to climb the fences to get away from the dogs. No one remembers why the police and the politicians so actively dislike each other here, but they do and the antagonism is just something the rest of us have to live with. I’ve heard that the reason may be the lack of good grafting opportunities here in our happy little burg, but that would be sheer speculation on my part.

But I did not go to police headquarters to discuss the problems of police peculation, but rather the crime wave that is currently striking fear in the hearts of our populace from the mountain to the prairie to the ocean white with homes now that hurricane season is upon us. Who, I asked, is behind this current wave of banditry and what steps are the police taking to protect us from the malefactors?
“Well, it is a bit difficult to answer your question, Sgt. Halloran replied. “We know who the troublemakers are, of course, it’s just that arresting them poses a bit of a problem.”
“How so,” I asked, sure that I’d caught the good sergeant in the middle of a cover-up of police incompetence.
“Well, it’s just that very few police officers have any real experience arresting zombies, you see,” he said.

I must confess that this news surprised me; I hadn’t known that zombies and other manifestations of the undead were such a vital threat to the lives and property of their erstwhile fellow citizens. Sgt. Halloran went on to explain that fighting the zombie crime wave was now the department’s number two priority, after opening a Dunkin Donut franchise in the cellar of City Hall, and that most of the hoodlums were the local veterans of the War of 1812, who wanted all the stuff they saw on television but didn’t want to work to get those things. “It’s a shame, really,” Sgt. Halloran said, “if you give it some thought. The VA does nothing for them at all, so they think they’re getting the shaft, especially if you take a look at the good deal the veterans of the Second Seminole War got. So they figure they’re entitled to steal socks out of driers and to scare kids and the like. It’s just their way of getting even, I think. It’s a crying shame, if you ask me,” he said, shaking his head in that heavy, world-weary way that experienced cops have.
“I guess so,” I said.

Labels: , , ,


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

FEY/PALIN 2008: Now, before I start I should admit that I’ve got the standard nerd’s hots for Tina Fey, or I would, if I were thirty years younger. I think she’s the funniest woman writing since Veronica Geng died, and with Geng, if you didn’t live here in the northeastern part of this our Great Republic, a lot of her stuff would just go right by you. You don’t get that sort of disconnect with Fey. So I was really looking forward to the season premiere of SNL; from the first moment I saw Sarah Palin (my first reaction was that the GOP nominated Tina Fey’s older sister) I knew that I would have to watch the season opener. I just knew.

And it did not disappoint. The show’s opening was five minutes of the smartest comedy I’ve seen in a long time (the rest of the show was just so—so) and I laughed like nobody’s business. One of the smartest of the lines was that one where Amy Poehler’s faux Sen. Clinton states that diplomacy must be the basis of any successful foreign policy and Fey’s faux Palin says, “And I can see Russia from my house!” I loved that line, but now that a couple days have gone by, I can see how I might not think that line was so funny if I were a Georgian or a Kazakh or a Ukrainian. Those folks actually can see Russia from their houses and they don’t like what they see. It’s all a matter of perspective, I guess; obnoxious neighbors are always funny when you don't actually have to live next door to them.

Labels: , , , , , ,


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

If only this were true, I'd be a happier man.

Labels: , , ,


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.

Labels: , , , ,