Fresh from an extended stint in the political decompression chamber, I turn a reluctant eye toward the annual tradition of trotting out the President of the United States to placate the worrywart populace with boilerplate exclamations of American exceptionalism. With Congress held fast in the serpent-coils of the opposition party, I expect cannonading ugliness to rebound through the Joint Session in seething lisps. Perhaps a retread of Joe Wilson’s infamous “you lie!” shouted by the ghost of Joe McCarthy riding forth from infernal limbo on the Red-Tide-crest of our softened Cuban policy and Kim Jung-un’s bombastic threats of crushing military retaliation.
Whatever the outcome of President Obama’s old soft shoe, I certainly didn’t watch it nor shall I partake of the high- and lowlights. The speculative ether holds more inherent truth than the perceptions of an eye rendered imbecilic by pessimism. I lived through the Reagan era and the promised American exceptionalism it left whimpering under the boot heels of Black Monday and a recession instigated by the Tax Reform Act of 1986, one of the largest and most surreptitious transferences of wealth in human history. Bemulleted America, smitten with hair rock and Wayne Gretzky’s bride-to-be, Janet Jones, drifted complacently into the soft malaise of prosperity slippage. I anticipate my generation will bear the shameful mantle as the first unable to retire in any permanent sense from traditional labor markets. We are debt-laden, overextended, underpaid, and strained to the limit by the onrush of an imminent dotage. Our chief advantage? Longevity exceeding that of our Baby Boomer parents, even as the longevity of our progeny withers from chemical additives, antibiotic abuse, and Type 2 Diabetes.
My advice is to corner the market on Magic 8-Balls and shake like there ain’t no tomorrow, which is debatable, but as for the efficacy of answers sourced to toys, ask again later. The future is laced with ticking traps as we transition from lambs of God to cattle steered straight into skyscraping abattoirs. The Big Sleep creeps into the disaffected through lilting Muzak as cubicle tribesmen plan their next attack on adjoining rivals. Ask any unapologetic capitalist which market forces brought the nation to its knees in 2008. The immense economic buying power of the un-heeled poor and teachers’ pensions, of course. It’s the old thimblerig sans shells and peas, reinvented as pawns and patsies. As the private sector grows, the animosity for public unions, fueled by misinformation campaigns, intensifies. A grotesque misappropriation of green-eyed jealousy. Teeth-gnashing envy grinds the logical remedy, demanding equal consideration, to tasteless paste-pudding. Destitution is a useful tool to aid in the retention of bottomless wealth. Distract the worker bees with pictures of emaciated children in mud holes buzzing with black flies. There but for the grace of a benevolent murderer go I. With gratitude I feed my numbered days into the profit grinder, knowing someday I’ll be the one wielding the cattle prod.
Guilty as charged.
As a moderate, I have swallowed my share of conservative snake oil. The evils of government are legion. Self-reliance is the key to prosperity. Hard work is its own reward. Too many gut-burning elixirs to tally. A massive dose of magic mushrooms ingested at Halloween circa 1986 purged the passive but poisonous acceptance of Reaganomics from my thinking. It was necessary to trip balls on hallucinogens to complete the journey to wisdom. I was a young man immersed in the stifling conventionalities of a business curriculum. My closest brush with a mind-opening experience was at a U.S. history class headed by a misogynistic borderline personality whose liberal use of the word “fuck” was rivaled only by Richard Pryor. I was parked in the second row of an immense but sparsely attended lecture hall, flanked by two anonymous coeds hell-bent on retaining the pretense of academia through the useless act of taking copious notes at a comedy show. In the middle of a diatribe on Eleanor Roosevelt’s rampant lesbianism, the professorial madman in charge, a walking cliché clad in a Hawaiian shirt, black dress socks, and sandals, went off on a tangent about Dr. Ruth Westheimer punctuated sharply with the declaration that in his estimation, quote, “I bet there’s no juice left in that pussy.”
Strange and wondrous memories of a bygone time. Three decades have softened the focus to a tender dream. Who was that person? What did he think life would add up to? I’m still asking that question. I imagine I’ll ask that until the nitrogen bubbles brought about by acute chronic political insanity vaporize the sucker-punched dread from my brain. Politics: can’t live ’em, live longer without ’em.
Back into the decompression chamber I go, fingers crossed that the next time I emerge the Lizard-People will have seized control of the government, assuming that hasn’t already come to pass. I am eager for any rationale behind the USA’s ostensible enthusiasm for global warming, especially one with overtones of science fiction. Someone has to fight the Gorn captain, and it might as well be me.
R. A. Roth