Friday, February 13, 2009

A Long, Long Season of Shame

I used to love to watch John Leonard review movies on CBS's "Sunday Morning". I never knew what he was talking about but I sure loved the sound of his words. Every week, after he finished his review, my husband and I would turn to each other and say, in almost perfect unison, "So? Did he like it or not?" (John Leonard died last November 8, four days after the presidential election. He was only 69. Way too young to die for anybody, but especially young for a wise old owl like Leonard. He was gravely ill but he mustered up nearly the last of his energy in order to vote for Barack Obama. I rarely understood the man but I wasn't the least bit surprised. I knew he would never have voted for McCain/Palin.)

One Sunday he was talking about a plague of spectacularly vile horror movies that had descended upon us that year. At the very end, he heaved that long, sad sigh heard so often during the Bush years and said, loud and clear, "I'm old enough to remember when America still felt shame."

I thought about John Leonard and that remark last week when I was in a Books-a-Million and I wandered over to their Joe Muggs coffee shop. Every table had a tri-folded advertising stand-up and they were all exactly the same. One side focused on BAM's membership advantages, one side told about Joe Muggs's latest Cappuccino flavor, and the third advertised Ann Coulter's newest paean to hate, "GUILTY: Liberal Victims and their Assault on America".

I guessed that Coulter's publisher, Random House (Bennett Cerf must be spinning down there), paid a pretty penny for their third of the stand-ups--an offer BAM maybe couldn't refuse--but couldn't BAM at least have tried to find another publisher--one who recognizes, celebrates and rewards good literature--willing to pay the same? For every Coulter fan turned on by the image of their favorite dominatrix taking a military stance, glaring out at us from above the word "Guilty". . .(Oh, I see now. A bit of sabotage by the cover designer? From a distance it looks like Ann's the criminal. I LIKE it!) . . .they're going to find people like me who just don't get the appeal of hatemongers.

The hateful have always been among us, but never so forcefully or in such great numbers. When I hear that millions of people are buying Coulter's ugly, inaccurate books or gushing over the nonsensical rantings of Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Hannity, Malkin, and a host of other snarling snipes, I have to wonder who these supposedly sentient inhabitants of the 21st Century, these self-anointed cultural caretakers, these self-appointed arbiters of our United States, these (Must I say it?) Voters really are.
(Stop me! I'm lapsing into a really bad imitation of Leonard-speak!)

Anyway. . .I want to shout to them (because I don't want to get too near): What are you people doing? You glorified and deified Ronald Reagan, a "leader" who almost singlehandedly killed the unions and who gave the destruction of the lower and middle classes such a boost we may never recover from it. He filled his cabinet with anti-government goons who reveled in showing their muscle, depriving poor kids of healthy school lunches by seizing on ketchup as a good enough vegetable, by turning our public lands over to as much private enterprise as their eight year reign would allow, and by introducing "deregulation" into our every day lexicon.

You so longed for the total destruction of Bill Clinton, a popular president not of your choosing or your party, that you readily bought into-- and passed along with a giddy vengeance--the notion that a really sleazy sex life was immediate grounds for something as serious and as rare as impeachment.

On the other hand, you turned your heads and closed your minds to any real evidence that, after Clinton (the really popular president) completed his eight years more or less honorably (no thanks to you), the woefully inadequate one you then so carelessly chose and so happily ensconced was everything you hoped he wouldn't be.

But even after the Bush Administration took the astonishingly shortsighted and murderous detour to Iraq, presided over the sickening mishandling of Katrina, initiated programs that severely undermined the lives of all but the super rich--showing their true colors at every turn--you still came out in huge numbers to put them back into office for four more years!

And even after he proved you wrong so many times, and even after you and your fathers and your mothers and your sisters and your brothers and everyone else you ever came into contact in your entire life got the shaft from George W. Bush and the Republicans, did you finally come to recognize the error of your ways? Did you promise to donate every penny you ever make as long as you live to help take care of those millions of victims who were doing, if not splendidly, at least pretty much okay until your guys came along? Did you press for jail sentences for your former buddies? Something--anything--to wipe those stupid grins off of Bush/Cheney's evil mugs? Did you at least give up Chocolate on Thursdays??

No. You didn't. Instead, you bought Ann Coulter's books and went on listening to Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Hannity, Malkin and that host of--others. You're over on Newsmax right now yucking it up over Obama's middle name and passing it on that Michelle is a Mother.

I see I'm not getting through to you. . .but I know someone who recognizes shame when he sees it. Watch and learn:


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