TV newscasts. NFL games. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting somebody (and I wish I could) who’s preaching at us this time of year about how “grateful” we should be to our military personnel stationed abroad in, as they say, harm’s way.
Well… uh… no.
Okay, I know. Get it out of your system right now. I’m an ingrateful bastard. (True, but irrelevant.) I don’t love America. (Untrue, although I love Mexico and lowriders more.)
Then what’s my point? Ask yourself this: If you’re supposed to be “grateful” and “thankful” to the troops, exactly what are you thanking them for?
It’s not for your safety or your liberty. We’ve sent ground troops to two foreign war theaters in recent years, and neither one had anything to do directly with our safety. The first was Iraq, and our troops were sent to fight and die there for a lie. (Remember? That whole awkward George W. Bush “mass destruction” no-relationship-to-bin-Laden thing?) The other was/is Afghanistan, and even the president himself can’t come up with anything resembling an explanation of why we’re still there—especially since that country’s bin Laden thing was, shall we say, “successfully concluded.”
At this point, Ol’ Rique O’ has a confession to make: Ol’ Rique O’ is getting a bit ol’. Yep, the bandanna is concealing less luxuriant he-man mane and more old-man scalp these days. There’s just a little less spring in my step when I do those sexy dance numbers with those sexy little numbers. All of which is to say that I’m so superannuated, I still remember when this country had a military draft.
What was that era like? It was waiting horrified in front of the TV while you found out whether your older brother was going to be sent to Asia to die. Turns out, the richest people in America remember it too. That’s why we don’t have a draft anymore—because having invested in prep school and “youthful hijinks” bail bonds for little Biff, they don’t have much of an appetite for having him come back from the Third World as a box of high-priced hamburger.
So, with the utmost tact and delicacy, our upper crust has delegated this grimy work to our lower crust under the euphemism of the “all-volunteer military.” Put a bit more directly, we now farm out the task of losing arms, legs and skulls to thousands of largely poor, largely black and Mexican dudes who will take the job because it’s the only one they can get.
I don’t doubt that these men (and women) mostly do love their country. But to be brutally honest, the work they do is vital only to the extent that their civilian commanders have sent them on a truly vital assignment. And near as I can tell, the most vital assignment we’ve been finding for these people in recent years has been to justify record-high military spending in an era when the Soviet threat (which was exaggerated for the same reason even then) is no more.
In short, our soldiers are being used for rich people’s economic and political gain as hapless cannon fodder. Does that mean we should feel sympathy, even pity, for them? Absolutely. Does it mean we have a moral obligation to get them the hell out of there and stop killing them immediately? Hell, yes. Does it mean we should be “thankful” they’re there? No. Sorry, but no. We should be disgusted they’re hung out to dry there.
During the height (depth?) of the Iraq war, Karl Rove repeatedly insisted that “if you don’t support the war, you don’t support the troops.” I say it’s exactly the opposite: If you’re for the troops, you have to be against the pointless wars. Because you don’t “support” anybody by having them pointlessly maimed and killed. At least I don’t, although I guess Karl Rove does.
So, why are we being told to be “thankful” for this slaughter? Because it scores cheap patriotism points for TV stations who want, more or less literally, to wrap themselves in the flag. Because the NFL and the brewers want to equate themselves with something everybody identifies as virtuous. Because Fox wants us not to question the military-industrial complex.
But not because it’s honest. Because it’s not.
The 2012 presidential election is over. And after the overwhelming mandate won by President Barack Obama, a large swath of America is smugly congratulating itself on the nation’s ultimate sanity.
Uh… not so fast there, Large Swath.
The problem is, there’s a whole other swath of America that demonstrated absolute craven, cretinous ignorance—a swath nearly as large as yours. For all the talk about the decisive nature of Obama’s win, he got under 51% of the vote, while nearly 48% of all voters pulled the proverbial lever for Mittens.
Now, I’ll grant that one reason for the closeness of the race was the unknowable thousands, perhaps even millions, of votes the Republican Party flat-out stole. In case you get your news from the TV networks, you don’t realize they did so through a variety of ruses: bogus Voter ID laws. mass purges of minorities from voter rolls, billboards threatening the poor with years in prison if they voted, and tax-funded flyers and websites telling Spanish speakers and the poor that Election Day was on the wrong date. The Republicans also forced literally millions of black and (WTF!) Hispanic voters to cast shaky provisional ballots—over 100,000 in one Arizona county alone—so their votes could more easily be tossed in the trash instead of counted.
Even so, it appears at least 50 million of our fellow Americans did in fact vote for a guy who openly said:
- 47 percent of all the citizens he wanted to represent are lazy leeches.
- Raped women should get thrown in prison if they abort the rapist’s baby.
- Billionaires are paying too much in taxes.
- He loves being able to fire people.
- Corporations are people.
- He’s not concerned about the very poor.
Beyond his statements, there were his actions. This is a guy who’d become mega-rich by destroying numerous American companies and casting aside their workers like a spider discards a devoured insect’s dry shell. Who strapped the family dog to the roof of the car for a cross-country trip, then casually hosed the terrified animal’s diarrhea off the back window and continued on his way. Who lied literally 24 times—usually contradicting his own prior statements on matters that were not small—just in the presidential debate he “won.”
Okay, you get the idea: I’m not impressed with Mitt Romney’s credentials to be president. But let’s compare and contrast. America’s voters had another choice. He wasn’t perfect, but unlike his challenger, he had proven himself a competent president. In addition, he also:
- Hadn’t gotten super-rich by gutting companies and exporting thousands of jobs.
- Wouldn’t force rape victims to carry the child.
- Actually admitted to what his economic plan was.
- Never expressed open contempt for 47% of the citizens he had sworn to serve.
- Had never pinned down a long-haired gay classmate in prep school so his accomplices could chop off the young man’s hair in his own room as he sobbed and screamed.
- And best of all, did not make joint public appearances with Donald Trump.
This choice seems pretty clear-cut to me. So how did the other guy win 24 of the 50 states? Despite the ridiculously obvious weaknesses of candidate Romney, what was it about the Democratic candidate that was so intolerable, so unthinkable, so utterly repulsive, it drove the voters of 24 states to retreat headlong into the arms of the Republican anyway?
Hint: Those 24 states included absolutely every state below the Mason-Dixon line (except Florida, which is half populated with New York Jewish blue-hairs).
Oh, and did I mention that the president was… uh… what’s a diplomatic way to say this… black?
Naw, that couldn’t have anything to do with it. Just the irrational rantings of another hysterical pinko.
Move on—nothing to see here.
You hear a lot of weird phrases in an election year. To my mind, one of the weirdest is “family values” and its companion phrase, “values voters.”
Who’s a “values voter”? I’d think it’s the person who tries to make their vote count for policies that help families stick together, and provide the best possible upbringing for children in a two-parent home. Pretty non-controversial, right?
Not so fast.
Turns out the people who run on “family values” are against all of those things.
Now, as you know, Rique O’ here is truly a rippling, macho he-man. Even so, I respect the role of working women, and specifically women who are single earners and sustain a whole household all by themselves. They have to be both parents at once, and it’s heroic work they do. But even most divorced women in this role would agree they didn’t get married in order to get divorced. Deep down, they’d have liked it better if their husbands had worked out as husbands, if they’d found it desirable to stay together, and if they’d have had someone to share all that responsibility.
It stands to reason that (key disclaimer here) all things being equal – we’re not talking about wife-beaters and alcoholics here – two parents are better than one. And getting straight to the point, statistics prove divorce often hurts the kids. They have poorer role modeling, less adult supervision and less money for school.
Which leads us to those “family values” politicians. What do they support? The two things that shred more families than any other.
The first of those two events is when Dad loses his job.
When Dad loses his job, a bunch of bad things happen way more often at home. Those pesky statistics prove it. He can’t find another job, he slips into alcoholism or depression, the marriage breaks up. Bam! A blow to the family.
As for the second home-wrecker, it’s one you’ll never, ever hear candidates talk about honestly: Dad getting thrown in jail.
Now, I hear what you’re saying: “Rique, now you’ve gone too far. First, if Dad’s a criminal, how good of an influence on the kids is he anyway? And second, if the guy commits a crime, what are we supposed to do – let him walk?”
Fair enough. I’ll answer that: Yes, that’s exactly what you do. More often than not, you should let him walk.
Why? Because we’re tossing people in jail for “crimes” that aren’t even crimes in the world’s other civilized countries. And a big part of the reason is that there’s money to be made by labeling ordinary citizens as criminals.
When the economy in a ghetto gets so bad that the best job available for an ambitious young man is to deal drugs, white voters love it and re-elect you in a heartbeat for “getting tough” on them.
When the local police make the bust, they just love unconstitutional “civil asset forfeiture” laws that let them seize the guy’s SUV, repaint it in police colors and proudly drive it around as their own. (Yes, it happens. Often.)
And when venture capitalists have bet multiple millions on the profit potential of the world’s biggest for-profit prison industry, they find it a solid investment to pour money into the political process to jack up sentences and to criminalize the same offenses that didn’t even rate a jail term before. (Yes, this is happening too.)
Result: Regular guys (and yes, most of them are guys) turn into convicts. Of course, once you’ve been convicted of a felony in this country, your life is basically ruined. You’re stigmatized for life and can’t get a decent job. If you were married, chances are your marriage will fall apart and you’ll fall out of touch with your kids. And with no other economic prospects, you’ll be forced to fall back on the one marketable skill you do have: crime. It’s no coincidence that prisons have been referred to as “finishing schools for criminals.” Guess who you learn career tips from all day, every day? Other criminals.
Now go back a few paragraphs. The start of this whole chain of events was the crappy education and lousy job prospects that drove this guy to do something illegal in the first place. In fact, chances are he was an unsupervised teen from a one-parent household himself. So if you’re a politician who truly cares about “family values,” what would you truly care about? Keeping dads employed and out of jail. Which means your #1 priority would be to inject job opportunities into America’s thousands of dying cities and towns.
But the politicians who shout loudest about “family values” aren’t for any of that. In fact, they’re against all of it. They attacked the stimulus law, which funneled nearly a trillion dollars into creating jobs and was way more successful at it than advertised. They hate unions, whose workers are better protected from mass firings. They want to gut funding for public schools, then drain the tax money into private-school vouchers that mostly help the people who already are doing okay. And they’re the most outspoken supporters of the “free trade” deals that are sucking away our jobs to China.
In short, if you really want a politician whose policies will help families and kids, do what most of the rest of the industrialized world does. Vote for the candidate who promises not to toss your dad into the slammer for smoking a joint – as opposed to, say, the one who “defends your family” by making you carry your rapist’s child.
Unfortunately, most American voters aren’t yet ready to support something that radical. Which, of course, means they ultimately care more about hanging onto their own comforting assumptions than they care about all those children. Guess it’s true: In a democracy like ours, we really do get the government we deserve.
Do Americans conduct their personal lives they way they conduct their political ones? If so, picture this:
You’ve been flirting with a wealthy, handsome man for many months. No firm commitment, although he’s been incessantly asking for one, but considering whether you want him nonetheless.
One day, you happen to flip on the TV. The show that’s on is “Cheaters.” And damned if the face on the screen isn’t your own selfsame Mr. Handsome—dead-cold busted.
The secret camera says it all, right from his mouth: “She’s got no self-respect. She never will. She’s poor and shiftless. You’re my real love, baby. In the end, all my loyalty is to you.”
For some reason—vanity, excessive good nature, general dim-wittedness, starry eyes, call it what you will—you still figure you’ll give the big lug one more chance to explain himself. So he shows up in your living room.
And guess who else shows up: Your husband, who’s served you unglamorously but faithfully throughout your four-year relationship. Oh, he hasn’t been perfect. Sometimes he dithers when you really wish he’d be a man about it and put his foot down. He hasn’t yet achieved the solidly middle-class living he promised you, but you can see he’s been trying his best, and he has earned a series of small raises.
But here’s this charmer right next to him. For 90 minutes each one appeals to you, but in the charm department it’s simply no contest. That big, handsome charmer with the big, bulging bankroll in his big, bulging pocket has it all over that poor unassertive schlub you’ve been putting up with. He says all the right things about how all he cares about is you. Okay, he makes one weird little comment about how he’d like to kill the family pet, but he swears that all he cares about is you and your well-being, and he’s a much smoother and more commanding talker than your husband.
So okay, America, this is your moment of truth. What do you do?
Based on this week’s post-debate polls, the answer is clear: You choose to get swept off your feet.
You do know how this story ends, don’t you? For four blissful weeks, Mr. Handsome continues to promise you the world, and you hang on his every word. When the big day comes for a long-term commitment, you extend your quivering hand and he slips the ring on your finger, till death do you part.
Then you reach the honeymoon suite. He molests you within an inch of your life, takes all your money and discards you like a spent orange rind—exactly as he said he would in that Cheaters tape.
You saw it, you think to yourself. He warned you. What made you think you shouldn’t have believed it? Now you don’t have him, or your husband, or your money. You’ve got nothing at all. As you lie huddled outside in the dirt, clutching together the edges of your ripped clothing against the cold, you think ruefully to yourself: Do I deserve to end up like this for being so gullible and so stupid?
Let me help with the answer: Yes, you do.
These Republican 1 percenters sure do love to tell the rest of us how God wants us to live (double down on that, those of you with uteri. Thank you).
But we don’t have to take their word for it. Because God spelled out exactly what he wanted us to do. I know, because I watched the movie where He delivered the marching orders himself.
I refer, of course, to the almighty Charlton Heston. He was president of the National Rifle Association, but you can just call him Moses. Of course, as our God, he sort of busted the script several years back when he turned senile and then died. But he thoughtfully left behind written instructions on how to judge ourselves and our fellow man: The Ten Commandments, namesake of the film where he brought those stone tablets down from the mountain and then relayed the new rules with convincing punctuation from ten irresistibly hokey claps of thunder.
Stating my own personal bias right up front, it’s impossible for me to watch the Mitt Romney campaign and not see a heart of darkness. Now, I’m not saying Mitt Romney himself is purely evil (though I’m not saying that he isn’t).No, I’m talking about all those other people in the room in that grainy Satan Summit video, all the $50,000 contributors who are so put upon in their opulence, so eager to hear their fellow tycoon-turned-footsoldier denounce the rest of humanity and do their bidding to destroy what’s left of the wastrels who are tasteless enough to take up space and spend precious tax dollars in their country.
But blessedly (pun intended), there’s no need to guess what God thinks of our behavior—or that of our plutocratic Republican overlords. All we have to do is compare Heston/God’s words to their actions. I’ll even give them a handicap by giving them a free pass on Commandments 1 through 3. So let’s jump directly to Commandments #4 through 10:
4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work. But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant.
Seen the part of Mitt’s talk where he describes his tour of a Chinese sweatshop? He doesn’t specifically say they worked 7-day weeks, but use your imagination:
“When I was back in my private equity days, we went to China to buy a factory there. It employed about 20,000 people. And uh, as we were walking through this facility, seeing them work, the number of hours they worked per day, the pittance they earned, living in dormitories with uh, with little bathrooms at the end of maybe 10, 10 room, rooms. And the rooms they have 12 girls per room. Three bunk beds on top of each other.”
According to published reports, Mitt’s describing a factory he toured on behalf of Bain Capital in 1998—after which he apparently bought it anyway.
5. Honour thy father and thy mother.
The Romney campaign is circulating a snapshot of him watching a video on an iPad, of a 1960s TV interview where his mom revealed that his dad once accepted welfare as a young adult. So you could say that a couple days before, Mitt had just trashed his old man as part of the 47% who accept government and therefore will never “take responsibility for their lives.”
6. Thou shalt not kill.
See: War, Iraqi.
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
When Larry Flynt put out a bounty during Lewinskygate for evidence that pitchfork-wielding GOP virtue-mongers were marital cheaters themselves, the immediate result was a flood of evidence that exposed Republican Congressional leaders Newt Gingrich, Bob Livingston, Bob Barr and Henry Hyde. More immediately, it’s also worth mentioning (and got mentioned, ironically, in Rupert Murdoch’s own New York Post) that the very house where Mitt gave his talk had been, mere months before, the site of a gigantic swimming-pool orgy by lusty 1 Percenters.
8. Thou shalt not steal.
Cayman Islands tax shelters. Swiss bank accounts. Shady corporate-welfare tax breaks. Wall Street scams that crossed the line into outright criminality. Need we go on?
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
This crowd has perfected the art so thoroughly, it’s even been named in their honor: “Swift Boating.”
10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house.
This commandment is awfully specific. So I hereby award a special commendation to the Bank of America and Wells Fargo folks for breaking it anyway—including the overeager foreclosure, burglarization, vandalism, padlocking and re-occupation of the wrong houses from homeowners who hadn’t even done business with them. (All of which also goes a long way toward explaining why these folks don’t particularly want to see bank regulator Elizabeth Warren take a Senate seat.)
I think the verdict is clear: According to the Christianity/NRA Memorial Code of Ethics, these guys are evil. Mitt Romney says 47% of us “will never take responsibility for our lives.” I propose a deal: I’ll step up and take responsibility for my life the very minute these characters are ready to step up into the pulpit, confess their sins at the top of their lungs and take responsibility for theirs.