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Sunday, November 14, 2010

TURNING WHEEL OF FORTUNE


the last of the leaves

Just now heard on the news that the Dictionary has declared Sarah Palin's gaff, refudiate, a word, a mix of refute and repudiate. Lord have mercy. Does the Supreme Court select words for the dictionary like they select presidents? Does this mean the black robes will change the pronunciation of nuclear and jewelry to nukuler and jewlery because a republican president said them that way? Sarah Palin is simply famous for being famous, like Lisa Marie Presley Jackson. I guess W was too, as he certainly wasn't famous for being presidential.
On YouTube you can find thousands of videos of "fails" where a teenage boy on a skateboard jumps off a roof lands crosswise on a steel handrail, or somebody smoking a motorcycle's back wheel in place and it gets away from him. I was thinking the Bush administration was a continuous series of fails like a string of Christmas tree lights. The bewildering part for me that goes on being a puzzlement is it was OBVIOUS. It didn't even take paying attention to see it. All I can see is half the American people, perhaps the white people half, want to destroy our country for future generations because somebody of color might benefit. Intent is the only way I can make sense of not responding responsibly to anything but determined adherence to the fiction of Ayn Rand, as if they get it.

I don't know if it's the jaded curmudgeon within seeing it a certain way, or if everything around me is going 80mph and the transmission got thrown into R. This is not the America I grew up in that believed everything was working toward getting better all the time, might not be so good now, but things are going to change for the better. In the middle of my life the brakes were applied. 30 years ago $6 an hour was the going wage. Today it's $6 and hour. 30 years ago what cost 35 dollars at the grocery store is now 120. Gas has more than doubled in price. Small businesses and small towns have been shut down by corporate megadiscount business. The 70s oil embargo shut down small independent gas stations. The present depression is shutting down the small banks. Is there a pattern here?

The biggest change I see, however, is in the collective mind of the American people. I remember after WW2 our country was held the highest in the world because we treated POWs respectably and were known for it around the world. As a result, our boys were treated better in POW camps than guys from other countries. Or so I've been led to believe by reports I've heard and seen. By the time the Bush-Cheney-Rummy triumvirate's insanity was unleashed upon what they believed to be a defenseless country, we'd become the bullies of the world, the real neo-Nazis. It's how we took the land we live on. Now our side tortures with impunity and brags about it, refuses to obey any law requiring them to stop. Arrogance of power? Sen Fulbright wrote a book about that back in Vietnam time. Was he paid attention to? Yeah, he was laughed at.

I've felt satisfied all the way along that I was exactly the right age to tap into the new rock and roll in 1955. I was 13 and wanting to hear something besides the Andrews Sisters, the Lennon Sisters and the other dreck to a kid entering the teens after years of looking forward to being a teenager. Rock and roll coincided with integration, the mix of r&b and country, at the same time black kids were forced to go to white schools. A great deal of tension was in the air as whites were afraid of blacks and blacks were afraid of whites. At my school the black kids clustered into gangs and beat up white kids for protection money, to protect you from them. I know it's not politically correct to tell it like I saw it, but that's what was happening. The school had 2 main entrances and a gang hung at either entrance every morning and afternoon intimidating the white kids and demanding money. I knew a side door that was always unlocked, so I used it.

This is the tension that was in the air at the time when Bill Haley came along with Shake, Rattle and Roll, Chuck Berry with Maybelene, Little Richard with Long Tall Sally, Elvis with Heartbreak Hotel, Jerry Lee with Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On, Buddy Holly with Peggy Sue and set us kids free of How Much Is That Doggie In The Window and Harbor Lights. There was a lot of shakin goin on in that time in a lot of ways. Suddenly pop music for teenagers was beginning to be made by teenagers, instead of by adults. By now, teen culture is an entirely separate subculture from that of adults. It's like not even the gossip circles intersect.

After half a century of television and a half century of rock and roll, our country is very different from what it was before, especially in attitudes. By now, who cares if our public speakers have a rough time with the language? So does everybody else. American anti-intellectualism has gone through anti-intelligence, through anti-paying attention, to the place we are now in recliners with bags of potato chips and COPS on tv. It's called decadence. In my lifetime, our nation has gone from earning it's role as King of the Hill to squandering it with misuse of power. How Shakespearean is that in a time when Sarah Palin is comparing herself to Shakespeare?




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