Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I Guess it's "Day Two." Has Anything Changed?

I'm enjoying Amerika in the 21st Century. We talk AT each other constantly, rarely speaking TO one another, and little of what we say do we mean and that's okay because even less of it is ever heard.

Here on Airstrip One, founded in part by the efforts of one George and brought nearly to its knees by the attitude and efforts of another George, we are suspending civil rights while proclaiming we are protecting them. The Patriot Act (actually the 'improved' Patriot Act signed this time two years ago. 'Improved' is one of those weasel words that can and often does mean, many things to many people) does, if you take the time to read it, almost exactly the opposite of what you or I might think you'd do to foster patriotism, assuming patriotism is a 'good thing' ("Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it." George Bernard Shaw). It has, in essence, the same relationship to good citizenship that Bradbury's firemen had to public safety in Fahrenheit 451.

We changed out leadership in the legislative branch of our national government seventeen months ago. I don't know about you but I'm still waiting for the changes I was told would be made, to get made. Unless by 'changes', somebody meant 'hold hearings on Major League Baseball and steroids instead of Michael Vick operating a dog-fighting operation.' Somehow, I missed the nuance on that-I feel so foolish.

Of course 'the government' lies and is incompetent. We hear this truism so often, everywhere, it must be true. Except, each of us knows someone who works for 'government' at some level and he or she doesn't lie and works very hard and means well and.....y'know what? When you do this stuff in the abstract, 'the government' as opposed to the specific, 'Tom, my neighbor, the state's attorney', it is a lot easier to disparage what the institutions we created are doing.

Humans are imperfect and so the systems and relationships we build are imperfect. It's part of who we are, like these big brains and these really nifty thumbs. We struggle and sometimes we get it right, for a moment, and the clouds part and the heavens smile. And other times, as happened yesterday in New York, the Governor of the state gets caught with his hand in the cookie jar, metaphorically speaking. There are reports his name and credit card showed up in an investigation of a prostitution ring and that he paid for a professional woman (genteel enough term for all of us, I hope) to travel from Washington DC to New York for (I guess) a consultation.

The news stories ponder the implications on his political future and wonder if this means the NY Lieutenant Governor, who is black as every paper has noted (so this must be important, right?), may become the Governor if the philandering incumbent resigns. No one seems to be wondering what any of this has done to his wife or to any of his three teenage daughters, all of whom, until yesterday, had lives. Today, they still have them but they are no longer filled with quiet desperation. A husband, a father, a man who ran as the 'Eliot Ness of Wall Street' (as former prosecutor who jailed Wall Streeters who were ethically impaired) elected Governor and announced at his inauguration, "This is Day One. Everything changes." Yeah, you'd think so, wouldn't you?
Meet the New Boss. Same as the Old Boss.
-bill kenny

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