Thursday, October 7, 2010

One Nation, In Decline

I'll start by mentioning that I was in a focus group once. I was unemployed and wandering around the city when someone in front of a movie theater invited me to see Killshot for free (it was terrible). It was boring for the most part, except for a terrifying moment when one woman in the group told another one that if she'd ever had a miscarriage she would have understood Diane Lane's horrible character. I felt bad for the people running it because they kept trying to wrangle straight answers about our feelings about the movie but we were all inarticulate at best, flat out stupid at worst. So I'll give credit to the three consultants who've been sitting in the living rooms of independent voters, it's got to be awkward.

Especially since just like my focus group, none of these people seem to have the slightest clue of what they're talking about:

[I]ndependent voters have tended to side with whichever party can legitimately claim not to be in charge at the moment, and ideology doesn’t have a whole lot to do with it.

It's a wonder that anarchy hasn't become a more appealing form of government with attitudes like that. On the other hand, it definitely explains the appeal of the Tea Party, since those assholes can more than legitimately claim to not be in charge of anything. As far as money quotes go though, our clueless voters only get better:

One woman described a food fight at the middle school that left a mess school employees were obliged to clean up, presumably because the children couldn’t be subjected to physical labor. A man complained about drivers who had grown increasingly hostile and inconsiderate on the roads, which drew nods of assent all around. Another described the Internet as just plain “bad.” [Emphasis added]

The internet as just plain bad. These are the words of a nation on it's way out people. While China is building bullet trains and showing some initiative in the forgery department, we as a nation are still struggling with the ideas of a globally connected system of computers that changed the world for good at least fifteen years ago. No one is forcing your children to overshare, your kids are just idiots.

Things are tough all over. I've got a college degree and I'm selling fish heads to get by. Some of my friends can't find work, others that do still can't afford to live on their own. Despite all of that, I've got a cell phone that communicates with satellites IN SPACE and gives me directions when I'm wandering around lost. You don't even need to be rich to own something like this, considering that I mentioned before that I'm selling fish heads. But yeah, the big problem with our society is that we're about as close to a collective consciousness as we've ever been.

You're angry at Washington? Get in line behind all the dead people. Being angry at those crooks in Washington has survived slavery, segregation, Manifest Destiny, non-integrated baseball, the Red Scare, the Cold War, the NES, Sega as a console producer and of course it survived our latest recession*. The anger and frustration is a great meme for voters and the media now because, as the narrative goes, Barack Obama promised change and has failed to deliver. When someone says "We are the ones we've been waiting for," it's more a challenge to act than it is a promise to wave a magic wand and make it all better. Yet here we are, two years later and a collection of ideologically empty jes' folks can't even articulate a vision for the future of the country they live in, much less make a coherent argument beyond "Road rage makes me sad."
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*I guess you're supposed to call it The Great Recession, but I'm not going to sully the name of the actual Great Depression by tying to our sucky but not impossible times. We didn't have bread lines or Okies or whatever the shit it was that was going on during Carnivale.
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I happen to have a vision. Two actually. The American voter can quit stuffing his face with Anus Burgers and spaghetti tacos and think clearly about the fact that a party left for dead because they couldn't or wouldn't follow through on their promises of fiscal sanity and moral leadership is about to storm back to power based on promises of fiscal sanity and moral leadership. Or she can ignore that, make David Brooks happy and vote for gridlock in Washington and then wonder aloud why Darrell Issa is greased up and nude on the steps of the Capitol and demanding Obama "release the tapes."

Either outcome is fine with me. I still have hope that Michael Bloomberg harbors a secret lust to separate New York City from this otherwise worthless landmass.

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