Dear Dirty America


Spit Take

September 26
19:00 2011
Dan Rudy – Portland

So my weekend was fairly low-key:  a couple of beers over a sour stomach, a bit of online training, and a touch of rain that finally ushered out the dismally humid air that’s made sleeping a misadventure.  Oh, and my air mattress has a mysterious puncture somewhere.  My weekend was low-key, how was yours?

Because as I was going about for a piss and a water late last night I happened to check out my usual spots, the BBC and Adam’s fine online periodical here.  What the hell?!  Clearly all weekends have not been created equal, as New York’s Union Square has been occupied by a large-scale protest; a sit-down surrounded by a police cordon now eight days later.  80 people have been arrested so far, several maced, others assaulted by white-collared cops over the weekend.  Like a good day in Damascus, one might be so inclined to say.  Support rallies are likewise cropping up nationally, lacking perhaps the rough-and-tumble of the original if not the spirit.   For example, the occupation of City Hall in Los Angeles and proposed financial district rallies in London and Madrid.
And yet… I’m looking through the major news outlets and not seeing anything on these stories!  Not as headliners, not even as supplemental blurbs on the crawl!  And CNN has the balls to front a piece called Why Our Government is Broken, the irony being that the 9-5 set (and their support subset of 24/7 part-timers) are all controlled by the same powers that be.  The news (clearly), the politicians (as evidenced in this tremendous if not quite surprising story), the tax system, the police, and the economy.  Everything funneling back to one place, fittingly enough the big board at the NYSE currently being protested.

I suppose I could see the BBC not running anything on the story; Europe and the rest of the world has been undergoing its own lock-step riot clashes for months.  But that none of our major venues would be covering this story on the front page (save MSNBC, whose video link of police brutality comes smaller than their story NYPD Chief: We Can Take Down a Plane if Necessary) is rather telling, in one of those vague everything-makes-sense-now sort of conspiracy theories.
Because it’s a difficult, hazardous knot to untangle and sort through, this ‘powers that be’ dilemma.  People are worried about a corporatocracy, and that’s well and good when presidential candidates come out and say ‘corporations are people.’  And people are upset by the tightly-knit connection between the professional classes, the interchangeability of lawyers, businessmen, and politicians and their unaccountable unanimity towards making America safe for big business.  Again though, broad strokes of the brush I’m trying to paint with; broad generalizations in an attempt to put a face to a macro-level situation.
I’m going to mull this one out, but my first reaction is to blame ‘money’ in its blandest cultural meaning.  Why are these protests happening now and not ten (or even four) years ago?  Because everybody loves money and the things that at least make it feel like one has it (a Swatch-watch grab bag of affordable and somewhat disposable luxury items that everybody must have); when the crunch came and as the mass majority begins to finally feel the pinch (like shrunken capillaries in the vascular system of our market economy) they get upset.  Little knowing or caring before then what had been happening so long as the bread and circuses kept coming.
That’s right, America.
They’ve watched every Christmas special ever.
But the days of cheap crap are behind us, America.  Like it or no, we’re being matched and in many ways outpaced by scrappier economies, by peoples we’ve long ridiculed or else ‘respected for being so in-touch’ with et al (i.e. being quaint) like the Russians and the Chinese, Brazil and to a lesser extent India.  They’ve had to watch our crap 90s movies where even every broken family still lived in a sort of suburban mansion, see our vomitous pop personalities and sit through blurbs decrying America’s growing obesity problem; seen, worked, and dammit want the lot of it.  We’d set an improbable standard of living for ourselves, are losing it, and now (to boot) the rest of the world wants the same.
            The waters of this situation run deep, billions of folk swept along by interconnected currents and events.  Much grander than any one op-ed can properly cover.  More to come…

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Dan Rudy is a writer and occasional walker who tends toward works of fiction.  He maintains a blog at the Rudian Days.

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