Monday, September 21, 2009

How Can Ya Be So Stupid?

I am talking about the so-called "working class" in this country. More narrowly, the white, self-identified "working stiffs" who probably don't belong to a union. Many are blue collar, some are gray collar, some certainly work in cubicles like girls at their sewing machines a century ago, very few are college educated, and nearly all have seen their economic prospects eroded--no, washed away--in a dam-burst of corporate exaltation and profit since the days when their first insidious hero, the now-underestimated Tricky Dick Nixon first bestrode them with a so-called "Southern Policy" that made the Republican party a manipulator of souls.

This post is inspired in part by Timothy Egan's "Working Class Zero" article in the NY Times today. But I have blogged of this working-class disconnect (or mis-connect) before.

My premise is that the American working class is easily in competition for the dumbest in the world, if "dumb" indicates an unquenchable thirst for doing what is diametrically opposed to one's self interest.

For instance, these sad Tea-Party buffoons that showed up in Washington last week: what was their purpose? Waving placards the collective sentiments of which ran the gamut from hate to contempt and back again to hate, they prompted me to ask myself if they had any clue what their actual message was, or if they knew what any coherent message might be. Did any of them seem to have a notion about what in public policy might in practice make their own lives better? Not a one, it seems. Much of the rhetoric was overtly racist (and many thanks to the Man from Plains for being plain-spoken about a very deeply shameful fact that even Obama wants to shrink from: that millions of American loathe him and his beautiful family because of the color of their skin). Race-hate seemed to be the message that got the most attention, whether the Tea-Baggers wanted it to or not. This alone makes my skin crawl, but let's not get too hung up on that just yet.

I imagine that astute observers around the world, especially those who've striven for "workers" over the long decades, including unionists, non-American centrists from large, industrial nations, socialists, and perhaps, if there are any who aren't thinking about nuking their neighbors due to their own brand of moronism, Communists, must be marveling at the overwhelming success the ruling class (roughly speaking) has had in dividing and conquering the peasants and serfs in the United States.

Where else are people who desperately need government regulation to keep themselves from being preyed on by giant conglomerates, instead spewing hate at "big government" and waving the flag for Capital? Where else are people who struggle to pay bills on the family Caravan deluded into thinking their taxation-policy should be in line with the taxation-policies that benefit those who pay with pocket change for their Bentley? Where else are people first robbed and cheated by a rapacious health-care industry literally from the cradle until the grave, then found crowding the airwaves with screeching-points written for them by the public relations experts employed by that very industry? Where else are people proudly betting their livelihoods and the livelihoods of their children on policies touting "self-reliance" and "faith" and "freedom" when what they are handed, once the race is run, a ticket worth little but an insecure, dead-end job in which they are totally dependent on plutocratic whimsy, not a nickel's worth of real assistance from their ermine-coated clergy, and a way of life constricted by prejudice, gun-violence, lack of access to facts, and only the mobility to traverse the lonely highways looking for the next town and the next job and the next mortgage?

For now, I will leave-off any discussion of the toxic form of Christianity that has taken hold of so many of these folks, for that is a subject both too deep and too complex to share space with any other. It is also a most wearying subject, and thinking about that plus the racist idiocy of the Tea-Baggers has left me in need of either a good strong drink or a restful nap.

I would like to say our nation can continue like this, with about forty percent of the country's populace living on a moonlet untethered to fact or any semblance of enlightened self-interest, but I don't think it can. The smart people won't always have an Obama to elect (and even he's got troubles in this environment); and it is in the cards that somehow, some way, a demagogue pandering to these Tea-Baggers will get put in the White House, and then heaven help us all.

Oh, wait. That already happened. I forgot, for a second, that George W. Bush had been President for eight most regrettable years. I guess I am afraid the next time it will be worse.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

That Lady that Drove the Wrong Way on the Parkway

For those of you who live either far away from the Hudson Valley or have been sailing 'round the world in a one-person craft the past couple of months, I am talking about the woman who got onto the Taconic State Parkway going in the wrong direction with a carload full of kids, drove several miles in the wrong direction (in the fast lane of oncoming traffic), then crashed and killed everybody in the car including herself and a couple of others in an oncoming car.

They said at first she had been "disoriented" and had called her brother (not her husband) and he had told her to stay off the road. She didn't listen.

Then they said she drank a half-gallon of vodka, smoked several joints and was as wild as a polecat when she got on the highway.

In either case, the result was a near-incredible tragedy the horror of which one struggles to contemplate.

Me, I am not buying the drunk-as-a-skunk business. I know we'll probably never know, but there's got to be more going on (a stroke?) when you are observed getting into a car sober (full of kids), then make a call that you're not feeling well, then commit a colossal and fatal error (or not!) that seems to have bordered on the far fringe of madness.

Can I picture the Long Island mom with her and her neighbor's kids in the car, chugging the hard stuff and smoking like Bob Marley somewhere between the exit for Poughkeepsie and the one for Garrison? Frankly I cannot. It doesn't "feel" plausible--that's all I can say about it.

I think the cops wanted to "solve the mystery" in a big hurry and so they did. I'm not saying there might not have been alcohol in her and I'm not saying there might not have been THC in her. I'm saying I can't imagine how she could have gotten that drunk and stoned that fast, and that this made her drive the wrong way on a parkway for several miles until dead.

They should probably exhume the poor woman and get some further testing done. And my heart goes out to all those who lost someone in this epochal automobile tragedy.


Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Yesterday I Saw an Orange Leaf

A friend of mine who grew up in the Midwest says that after living here in the Northeast for several years, he observes that on September 1, the light changes, the air changes, and everything about summer begins to wane rapidly.

I still keep trying to tell myself it's psychological conditioning (back to school--all that stuff); but there is always, for me, a wistful quality to early September and I believe my friend's insight about the angle of light, coupled with the onset of no-longer-deniably shorter days, has something to do with it.

I have already blogged about how winter excites in me a seething hate bordering on that of the birthers for Obama. I have unfortunately allowed that hate to overflow into a near-dislike of everyone's favorite season (fall) on grounds that it is simply an early phase of winter and harbinger of much worse to come (weatherwise).

Now that we have been handed a summer generally so wet it might have been able to confuse the Creature from the Black Lagoon into relaxing on my front porch thinking he was still underwater, I feel like I must fight to deny fall any toehold--the better to forestall the onset of the great unhappy freeze that reduces the Northeast to a soggy, sad excuse for staying indoors and looking at art and watching movies instead of, say, roasting kielbasa over a propane fire.

Hence my denial of all signs of the arrival of a season not called summer but that inevitably seems to follow it in the seasonal cycle. Perhaps perversely, I have therefore grown keen-eyed in my scan of the summerscape, looking for signs of decay. For several days into September I saw no change. Even a patch of new grass seed I had recently laid had sprung and grew thick and yet wispy like the hair of a green young angel. Even until today there has still been no thought of needing a thing called "jacket".

But yesterday, on my way back from the County Fair up in the Hudson Valley, I spotted, quite suddenly and in a place it had certainly not been noticed the day before, a tree with leaves beginning to turn orange. I caught my breath. Summer was beginning to fail me--faithless, green summer now beginning its long swoon to the crackling ice and black sucking mud and the dark, unforgiving days of winter. In summer, people can picnic in the woods. In winter, people who are stuck in the woods freeze to death. Freeze to death! Winter is an indignity not to be borne without strong resentment.

And now we are on our way. The leaves have (in the Hudson Valley anyway) begun to turn. Before we know it, we'll be trying to keep our ears warm (a ridiculous notion!).

I am determined to remain in denial for at least several more days. I think I can last until the twentieth of the month. Then, kicking orange leaves with my boot, I will have to think about raking them and piling them and to begin counting the long days until spring.