A soldier serving in Afghanistan was killed while Skyping with his wife. (We don’t know whether he was shot or died of some other cause.) How will your death be live-streamed?
Bankrupt and Corrupt, U.S. Can’t/Won’t Address Issues We Care About
Millions of Americans won’t vote this November. “Voter participation in the U.S. remains consistently below corresponding levels in most other western democracies,” the International Business Times reported last year. “In countries like Italy, Belgium, Austria and Australia, more than 90 percent of the voting public cast ballots at election time.”
They—the corporate politicians and their media mouthpieces—call it apathy. Obama advisor David Axelrod blamed it for the Iraq War. “There was apathy in 2000, and Al Gore lost that election to George W. Bush by 300 votes, and as a result we wound up in Iraq,” he told the Harvard Crimson. That’s crap. People don’t boycott elections because they don’t care. They are alienated.
We don’t care about two-party electoral politics because two-party electoral politics don’t care about us.
What are Americans most worried about this election season? The same thing we’ve been most worried about for years: the economy. You name the poll: local or national, liberals or conservatives doesn’t matter. Tens of millions of people are unemployed. People who still have jobs live in terror of layoffs. Real inflation is out of control but salaries are frozen or falling. (The fact that we have to specify “real” says a lot about the gap between life out here “on the ground” and over there “inside the Beltway.”)
We’re being ground down. Demoralized. Bankrupted. And they don’t care. Not only do they not care, they don’t notice.
The Fed and the White House are colluding in their quadrennial tradition of ginning up a pseudo-boomlet to support the incumbent. Thus the latest Dow bubble and phony 8.3 percent unemployment rate, which count people who have given up looking for work as “employed.”
Everyone knows the recovery is fiction. Who are you going to believe—the talking heads or your lying, overdrawn, second-mortage line of credit? According to the latest Gallup tracking poll, which actually asks actual people how they’re actually doing in the actual world, 9.1 percent of Americans are unemployed and 19.0 percent are underemployed. When 28.1 percent of Americans are broke, that affects everyone, including the richest 1% trying to sell goods and services.
People expect their “representative” democracy to represent their interests. To address their problems. And solve them.
No wonder why we’re so apathetic. Our “leaders” hardly talk about the economy.
Santorum is more worried about how easy it is to get sex than how hard it is to find work.
Romney thinks it’s 1992 and that he’s Ross Perot, the businessman who promised to run America like a corporation. As though it wasn’t already. As if that wasn’t the problem.
Obama imagines that we didn’t notice that he only started asking Congress to work on the economy after Congress fell under the control of the other party. We’re slow. We’re not deranged.
Our dying political system is unwilling and unable to address joblessness and the widening class divide because our misery isn’t an aberration. It’s an inherent manifestation of corporate capitalism. Ordinary Americans understand this. Half the citizens of this “conservative” country already prefer socialism or communism, according to a Gallup poll conducted in December—watch that go up—yet the political class dares not question the Crappy Economic System That Must Not Be Named.
Since they can’t take on the real issues the elites are reduced to the politics of distraction.
Kids and death.
Those are the D-grade “issues” the powers that be are using this week in order to avoid talking about the atrocious economy.
Federal regulators announced on February 27th that all cars manufactured after 2014 must feature rearview cameras that allow drivers to see what is behind them. The National Highway Traffic Administration says that “95 to 112 deaths and as many as 8,374 injuries could be eliminated each year by eliminating the wide blind spot behind a vehicle,” reported The New York Times. The estimated cost of the devices is $2.7 billion per year.
“In terms of absolute numbers of lives saved, it certainly isn’t the highest,” admitted Clarence Ditlow of the Center for Auto Safety. “But in terms of emotional tragedy, backover deaths are some of the worst imaginable. When you have a parent that kills a child in an accident that’s utterly avoidable, they don’t ever forget it.”
No doubt. I can imagine. By all means, put in those cameras.
But there’s something screwy about a political culture that slaps this trivial story on the front page of the biggest newspaper in the country and makes it a Congressional priority while the elephants in the room go unaddressed. Every year 17,000 Americans die in slip and fall accidents—151 times the rate from backover car accidents. Maybe we should install cameras on the backs of our heads.
Yo, moron journalists and politicos: Jobs! We care about jobs!
If you idiots must obsess over cars, why aren’t you pushing through radical improvements in fuel efficiency, like requiring that every car made after 2014 be either electric or a hybrid? Autos are a major cause of air pollution, which triggers asthma attacks, which kill at least 5000 people annually in the U.S.
It’s not just about the kiddie-poos. The establishments is still wallowing in Bush’s hoary post-9/11 death cult.
The day after its hold-the-presses car-cameras scoop the Times was back with another page-one heartstopper:
“The mortuary at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware disposed of body parts of some victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks by burning them and dumping the ashes in a landfill,” began the story. The victims were killed on Flight 93, which crashed in western Pennsylvania.
Gross? No doubt. Inappropriate? Unquestionably. Important? Hell no.
The worst thing that could ever happened to the people to whom those body parts belonged occurred before. They were dead. Murdered. What went down after that was comparatively trivial.
Not to stir up the Truthers (with whom I disagree), but a more appropriate front-page story would ask: “More Than 11 Years After 9/11, Why Hasn’t There Been an Independent Investigation?”
Here’s what we’ve come to: Get killed on Flight 93 and no one bothers to find out what really happened to you. Have your remains disposed of in a culturally insensitive manner and it’s a scandal.
What if Flight 93 had landed safely? Some passengers would gotten laid off. Some would have been foreclosed upon. And the government wouldn’t have given a rat’s ass about them.
Why don’t people vote?
A better question is: Why do people vote?
COPYRIGHT 2012 TED RALL
Somber is Out. Kitsch Reigns.
Americans don’t mourn right.
We are tacky.
We are gauche.
We turn tragedy into kitsch.
Last week’s news was dominated by the aftermath of the Tucson massacre: the memorial service, the funerals, even the reopening of the Safeway supermarket.
A memorial service at a sports arena. What is wrong with us?
I say “us” because this is not a Tucson thing or an Arizona thing. It’s all too American.
Thousands of cheering fans—er, mourners—donned “Together We Thrive: Tucson & America” T-shirts, handed out by the University of Arizona. They greeted the arrival of President Bar-Rock Star Obama with applause and wolf whistles. They interrupted with raucous hoots every couple of minutes—and he did nothing to tamp down the unruly crowd. Emergency responders got a standing ovation. Attendees clapped at the mention of the nine-year-old girl who was shot to death. Arizona governor Jan Brewer was booed.
Some called it unsettling, others unseemly. I thought it was weird and tacky. A memorial service should not feel like a WWE event.
On the lawn in front of the hospital where Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was being treated, USA Today reported, people placed “hundreds upon hundreds of hand-scrawled notes, stuffed animals and signs condemning the violence.”
Outside the Catholic church where the funeral for Christina Green, age 9, was being held, firefighters hung a patchwork quilt “National 9/11 Flag,” oddly blending politics, religion, and George W. Bush.
Each mass tragedy amps up the volume and surreal inappropriateness of Americans’ public expressions of grief. After 9/11 New Yorkers posted “missing” posters for people they knew were dead. Stuffed animals and grammatically challenged notes, soggy and runny, hung from the fence at St. Paul’s Chapel near Ground Zero while vendors hawked cheap framed photos of the Twin Towers a few feet away.
Obama politicized Tucson. John McCain did the same at the televised memorial service for Pat Tillman. A group of pro-Bush 9/11 widows preened for the GOP at the 2004 Republican National Convention.
From memorial pages on Facebook to memorial decals on SUVs, Americans think anything goes when you’re mourning the death of a loved one—or someone whose death made national news, which somehow makes you want to feel involved even though, of course, you are not.
Everyone has to deal with death. No one can or should tell you how to feel. Yet you do have an obligation to comport yourself with dignity, to “stay calm and carry on,” as the British poster from World War II urged. Death is inevitable, horrible, often tragic and, as Sartre said, absurd. But please don’t drag the rest of the world into your psychological abyss. Spare society the tawdry and ostentatious displays of over-the-top yowling.
Just be sad. It’s OK.
My best friend died when I was 16. I never got over it. His death still makes me sad. I’m OK with that.
I wore a suit to his funeral. There wasn’t any cheering. I don’t think an appearance by the president or the attorney general would have reduced anyone’s grief. It was a sad thing, so sad that no one could make it better, and nobody tried.
As the cultural critic Marita Sturken wrote in her 2007 book “Tourists of History: Memory, Kitsch, and Consumerism from Oklahoma City to Ground Zero,” all this tacky phony sentimentality serves a sinister purpose. Mainstream American culture is being manipulated by government and big business to separate us from what is real—death and horror—and to obscure who is behind it—our government and big business.
“This comfort culture,” says Sturken,” can be found in everything from the small souvenirs that promise reassurance at sites like Ground Zero and the Oklahoma City memorial…Much of the culture of comfort functions as a form of depoliticization and as a means to confront loss, grief, and fear through processes that disavow politics…an American public can acquiesce to its government’s aggressive political and military policies, such as the war in Iraq, when that public is constantly reassured by the comfort offered by the consumption of patriotic objects, comfort commodities, and security consumerism.”
As the economy and political system continue to collapse, we will likely see more mass shootings and terrorist attacks. Thus we should be prepared. And we should give ourselves permission to get real about mourning.
So, as a public service to the grievers of the future, I hereby offer my
Basic Etiquette Following a Massacre:
(1) When interviewed on television never say that your “heart goes out to the victims and their families.” We have heard that hoary chestnut a million too many times. Keep your heart where it belongs, inside your ribcage.
(2) If you are a public official holding a press conference about a school shooting/workplace shooting/terrorist attack, refrain from thanking a long list of local and state officials for their help. This isn’t the Oscars. You haven’t won anything. You are not going to meet Joan Rivers.
(3) Whether attending a memorial service or actual funeral, leave your hoodies, baggy pants and tanktops at home. No baseball caps. No T-shirts. Don’t wear anything with a team logo. Appropriate clothing is formal, black or very dark blue. Men wear suits with ties. Women wear long dresses. Don’t got ’em? Stay home. You don’t get to be on CNN.
(4) If you know one or more of the victims, ask their surviving relatives whether they would prefer flowers or a donation to a preferred charity. Otherwise simply choose an appropriate charity and make a donation in their name. Do not waste money on flowers and stupid stuffed animals.
(5) Unless the victims include at least one politician, no politician should speak at the service. If there is at least one dead or wounded politician, politicians who do speak should refrain from political rhetoric.
(6) No. Applause. Ever.
NEXT WEEK: Toilet etiquette. How to wipe. How to flush.
(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)
COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL
In the year 2525, as the old song goes, everyone will still be listening to endless droning on and on and on about how Woodstock and everything else Boomer was so super awesome that nothing else can or ever will approach it in its awesomeness. Which may very well be true, in which case, we REALLY don’t want to hear it anymore. For God’s sake, let us enjoy our pop culture lameness!