Whatever you want to call it, the Union or Onion, it is in sorry shape these days. It even shows up in our pop culture. What the devil is with those brainless beer ads in which doofless oafs shove their gorgeous girlfriends away to get their paws on their favorite brew? Talk about pathetic fantasies: I’m sure the streets of America are jampacked with exquisite young women longing for a relationship with some couch potato in the throes of incipient alcoholism.
And then there were the TV spots during the Veterans’ Day weekend that “honored,” in the most perfunctory, condescending way, the men and women in our military. Did anyone besides me wonder why they were inevitably accompanied by country and western hat-band music, as if our Armed Forces were entirely composed of adenoidal NASCAR fans raised to the tune of “Old Sow Got Caught in the Fence Last Night,” “Okie From Muskogee” and “Roly Poly, Daddy’s Little Fatty.”
Funny thing, when I was hanging out with USACAPOC units in Iraq, the men and women I met were a fascinatingly heterogeneous bunch, including not only old-fashioned salt of the earth rural and small town Scotch-Irish patriots and big city African-Americans whose fathers and grandfathers had served in the military before them but considerable numbers of Samoans, Meso-American immigrants who enlisted to help earn U.S. citizenship, second generation Vietnamese-Americans, blue collar Reservists working on college degrees, and Moslem Americans from all over the Islamic world outraged at both 9/11 and the assumption by their bigoted fellow-countrymen that they were somehow less than loyal to their nation. And plenty of Native Americans, of course. Did any of the Madison Avenue geniuses who created the ad campaign ever visit the sprawling Veterans’ Cemetery on the outskirts of Fort Defiance on the Navajo Rez? I somehow doubt it. I really think their mosaic of backgrounds deserves a more appropriate musical accompaniment than the instrumental track from “Take His Gas and Kick His Ass.”
And what about the hypocrisy of so many of those loudly professing their heartfelt gratitude to the veterans? How many are Tea Party members, agitating to slice veterans’ benefits to the bone so they can pay lower taxes and squander more money on ATVs, block-long RVs, second and third homes and flat-screen TVs in every room? Nauseating, just like those video game ads for that new ultra-violent modern combat video, with cartoon Average Americans blasting away at legions of straw dogs. The ad’s tagline is “There’s a warrior inside all of us.” Hey, dream away: There’s an insecure spineless wimp inside the chickenhawk stay-at-homes who play childish war games on their TVs while their betters are out there bleeding and dying in real wars in faraway places.
After the last elections, when the Republicans rode the Tea Party movement to gain control over the House of Representatives, the media rat pack went on and on about how President Obama and the Democrats “didn’t get it.”
“He [Obama] doesn’t get it”; “He just doesn’t get it”; “He still doesn’t get it, even after the election results”: The massed chorale went on ceaselessly, from the same smug talking heads and corrupt commentators who had helped the Tea Party succeed from the get-go by pretending it was a genuine grassroots phenomenon inspired by righteous anger at “Big Government.”
Now of course we know that the Tea Party is a scam, perpetrated by the richest people in the country in order to keep even more of their money and contribute even less to keeping the nation up and running. Rand Paul, the sinister and malign Goebbels of the movement, finally said something true after his successful campaign for office in Kentucky: Interviewed, he admitted that in real life he is a multi-millionaire physician who owes most of his fortune to Medicare payments, and that the one government program he doesn’t want to cut is the one that pays out huge sums of taxpayers’ money to doctors like him; so much for the fiery foe of the “socialist welfare state.” And the grotesque creature wasn’t even embarrassed or ashamed: Why should he be? In 2010 America wealth equals power and power buys respect from the press and an aura of righteousness and immunity from criticism. With the richest among us on the verge of getting even more tax breaks, and Congressmen preparing to vote their own ethics oversight office out of existence, creepy characters like Paul will thrive, multiply, and continue to bloat their fortunes and those of their insatiable backers to even more insane proportions.
That is the State of the Onion today, and it’s enough to make any thoughtful, patriotic American weep with shame and disgust.