The Ryan-Murray Budget Deal. The Mount Vernon Assembly. On the surface, one issue has nothing to do with the other. In reality? They are tied together, the very existence of the first — and the stunning lack of credibility of Speaker John Boehner — explaining the reason for the second.
Still new to the Deep South, on Sunday afternoon we attended a holiday cultural performance held in our Alabama hometown’s splendid high school auditorium. The elaborately decorated stage was resplendent with professional performers who were joined by local school children. The latter had plainly taken their rehearsals seriously and were visibly thrilled to be participating.
Moreover, private donations funded almost two thousand tickets for children from the surrounding county to attend one of the performances presented over the past few days. The auditorium was abuzz with a very diverse crowd of uniformly excited kids.
Yet imagine our consternation when we saw children on stage playing the roles of tin soldiers, armed with toy rifles and swords. What is more, the guns (which even included an artillery piece) were fired with staged deadly effect on numerous adversaries. And, more shocking still, one child used his sword to stab to death a threatening creature, and then to cut off a crown attached to its head. An imitation scalping, in effect, carried out by a young boy in front of hundreds of even younger and surely impressionable school children.
When he was elected president of South Africa in 1994, Nelson Mandela’s country was a sizzling stovetop of grievances and ideologies, a place where the vestiges of Apartheid mixed with newer black nationalist and Marxist resentments. The pressures Mandela faced were enormous.
One of them was to follow the example of Robert Mugabe, president of nearby Zimbabwe. A gapingly disproportionate amount of land in both Zimbabwe and South Africa was owned by the white minority. Mugabe was in the process of implementing a sweeping, coercive land reform plan that would redistribute land en masse, and without compensation, from whites to black farmers. This ultimately hyper-inflated his currency and annihilated the Rhodesian economy.
Has anyone noticed that your brand has replaced your self?
First impressions have always been important, but became critical to survival when Americans left the farm for the city and needed to get a job from someone they were not related to or friends with. Dale Carnegie cashed in on this demographic shift with his bestselling 1936 book “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”
The advent of social media, however, seems to have unleashed an obsessive inner need to mark our territory like dogs who stop every five feet to spread their scent, and not just on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
I am no scientist, but I’ve noticed you no longer have to Google people to find out who they are. Just look at the back of their car. It will often tell you not just their political affiliation, a long-standing tradition, but where and how much they spend on vacation, their yearly tuition bills, and their social class.
I do my fair share of carping about Washington’s “elites,” say, for their free-spending ways or their reckless adventurism abroad. That said, when I speak to family and friends back in the Heartland, I usually dissent from at least some of the common epithets thrown at the inhabitants of the Beltway who claim to govern America. “Stupid,” “dumb,” “idiots,” and sometimes “clueless” are the typical pejoratives used. From my perspective only the last one is accurate. The denizens of Washington may live in an impenetrable bubble, but they are actually quite smart, well educated, top of their class, and… clueless as to what most Americans are thinking and feeling. Poor judgments on the NSA’s snooping and the proposed intervention into Syria are just two recent examples. And the President’s patent falsehoods about letting folks hold onto their existing insurance plans, well, that was not stupidity but outright dishonesty predicated upon the view that the rubes will sit still for anything on offer from their betters in Washington.
You’d have thought the president of the NRA had called for the tarring and feathering of mourning dove hunters! All it took for Pope Francis to bring down on himself the Wrath of Rush Limbaugh last week was to disrespect — or appear to be disrespecting — capitalistic economics, in the context of calling for a new Christian evangelism.
“The worship of the ancient golden calf,” said the pope, “has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose.” Further: “The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase.” There was, to make matters worse, some severe language regarding “trickle-down economics” and that good old Darwinian notion called “survival of the fittest.”