At one point or another during your childhood, you viewed the following piece of cartoon animation: Somebody (likely an anthropomorphic dog wearing a fishing vest) is sitting in a diminutive rowboat out at sea, minding his own business. Suddenly the waters stir and a whale emerges, its gaping maw ready to swallow the boat whole and take the dog fisherman with it. Then once inside, there’s some business with a camping lantern and some sneezing powder or other means of stimulating the whale to give up its dinner.
Have you felt lately that the whale is out there? I mean, a sustained dread is one thing. We have those from time to time because they are a part of life. I’m talking about the sense that something is lurking, that it is big and taking on strength, and that it will consume us without a moment to contemplate being swallowed.
When George W. Bush made it clear he was seriously thinking of running the country, I had no dread. Because, you see, it was quite simply impossible that someone that under- qualified would be elected to that office. And, as many of us continue to believe, he never was legally elected to that office. But still, he got there and he stayed there for eight years and that experience has given me new respect for what I’d like to call “The Whale.”
Think of the way the first bass notes of the “Jaws” theme were used to signal foreboding. Now imagine that the same piece of music plays in your head when any of the following happens: An empty and intellectually bankrupt piece of plastic movie making that should logically make a nine year-old child restless earns $75 million in 48 hours at American shopping malls. Reality television shows featuring the self-absorbed in compromising positions find audiences numbering in the millions. School budgets disappear along with bookstores. Rick Perry of Texas announces hot off his prayer rally that he is running for President of the United States. Michele Bachmann wins the straw poll in Iowa.
You want someone who loves you to slap your face so you’ll awaken from your Fellini-esque nightmare. Except… you’re not asleep.
We’ve gotten so used to asking ourselves “How much damage could they really do?” about events of the type I’m describing that we forget that we already have a full two-season DVD of Bush/Cheney that we can watch anytime we need to be reminded. All your favorite moments are there: The hanging chads leading to the fake election and denial of the popular vote. Blood for oil. The spying on citizens. The torture. The Patriot Act. That just happened and we were wide awake for all of it.
I’m not a conspiracy freak. I look at a poorly executed maneuver such as Michael Steele’s short-lived token leadership of the GOP and I see poor organization and weak thinking. McCain and Palin as a ticket wasn’t a conspiracy; it was bad decision making followed by a lack of creativity. Some would argue the plan was to win the next election instead and take over Congress. But again, that’s assigning an awful lot of planning ability to a coalition of entities so inept they didn’t even bother to worry about what would happen after the WMDs were never found.
Rather than conspiracies, I’m feeling this whale. It swims in the warm, comforting waters of less and less education and more and more reactionary government. It thrives on a plankton stew that has been flavored with a “patriotism” that simply ignores the bartering of American lives for oil or perhaps endorses it, and then talks of one nation under God that would discriminate against gays and repeal the reproductive rights of women. Other ingredients include less government/more pollution, and Jesus and his seeming approval of us all carrying guns and deploying them as needed.
We keep to our friends and with them we share laughter over such notions as a crazy woman being nominated for President or the substantial takeover of government by the religious right. We toast the impossibility of there ever being a return of back-alley abortions. We insist that things will never get “that bad” whatever the new “that bad” might be, as public schools wither and the media responsible for reporting and providing news and information simply borrows it from the Internet. We hear… what is that? Isn’t that the old “Jaws” music? Hey, what’s happening to our rowboat?
The mission is to populate the White House with a stooge for corporations and oil. Mitt Romney gets out there early and he puts us on our toes because he is so rubbery and fake that he just might get elected. But as we over-focus on him, we see Skeletor and the Green Goblin suiting-up in the background. And now Romney starts to look… well, at least he’s not as insane. I never believed America would allow George W. Bush to become its President. I was in denial at that time, and now we’re launching presidential campaigns from prayer rallies. The whale surfaces and I for one feel uncomfortably close to its mouth.