for 7 November 1996. Updated every THURSDAY.

 

 

Bully for You

 
"I'm always immaculately clean,
adorned with independence and
frankness." - Cyrano de Bergerac
 
Decrying moronism is an admirable
calling, if you can work yourself
into just the right lather over an
appropriately significant topic. A
bee in your nostril about the
voluble nocturnal behavior of the
next door neighbor's dog,
f'r'instance, is no good at all.
Dogs are just dogs, after all, and
some dogs just think ambulance
sirens want to frolic. The theme is
too mundane, the target too
innocuous. As losing presidential
candidate Walter Mondale once said
(echoing a popular TV commercial of
the era), "Where's the beef?"
Besides, unless you're prepared to
feed the offending canine a
Toblerone when nobody's looking,
you'll get no satisfaction. The coup
de grâce, when carping, is a
consummation devoutly to be wished.
 
Still, better living through
beatdowns is our motto, even if
those on the receiving end aren't
knocked entirely silly. It's a dirty
job, but someone's got to do it, and
unlike the majority of Americans who
answered a recent poll on a related
subject, at least we always wash our
hands afterward. We're even willing
to take it on the chin ourselves
because, like Cyrano de Bergerac, we
appreciate the finer aesthetic
qualities of the nearly infinite
variety of whoop ass.
 
 
Even the unseasonably mild political
season just past provided plenty of
hale flowers in a variety of
Cyranoid categories. A wee trip down
memory lane, for that 51 percent of
you who were too busy formulating
Flight 800 theories to actually vote
(thus did the pro-Perot turnout go
down in flames):
 
The early race saw Beatdowns
Agressive, Beatdowns Repetitive and
Beatdowns Retentive, but much to our
amusement, the Beatdown Accidental
popped up during the acceptance
speech of reelected Texas senator
and erstwhile snapping turtle Phil
Gramm. "There's one thing in my life
that lives up to the Kipling
standards," he said proudly, after
aimlessly quoting the poetry of
Rudyard, that notoriously jingoistic
bard of British imperialism, "and
that's my wife Wendy Gramm."
Gentleman ranker, off on a spreeeee,
damned from here to your house in
DeeCeeeee . . . .
 
 
Also in Texas, Republican House Whip
Dick Armey harangued our ears with a
simple yet elegant instance of the
Beatdown Absurdly Pious on ABC.
Speaking of Texas's majority vote
for Bob Dole, he opined, "We are the
one state that's going to wake up
without a case of buyer's remorse."
 
Actually, Armey's consumerist
metaphor brings up an interesting
point. Given the unending
smorgasbord of scornworthy subjects,
how can one tell a fresh, juicy
screed from a moldy old scold? One
shouldn't assume too quickly that
every outlandish exercise in
antinomian cultural commentary is
the same. Some philippics are more
equal than others, just like The
Wild Bunch will always be a more
important film than Reservoir Dogs,
and just as a luscious, pouty-lipped
tongue-lashing from P.J. Harvey will
always outdistance an unhappy cri de
coeur from Alanis Morissette.
 
Ecchh. Enough metaphysics. We always
wax poetical when we're hung over,
and today we're still feeling the
effects of the Beatdown Electoral.
We've only just recovered from those
first sickening few days after
Halloween, when we felt like puking
even as we unwrapped another Tootsie
Roll, and here it is again - a
nauseous feeling, only this time
because we're overstuffed with way
too much contempt than is good for
us.
 
In an analysis as bereft of
originality as it is of respect for
the Average Voter, pundits have
likened the electorate's appetite
for such bashing to geese
destined to become pâté - force-
fed a steady diet of political
corn. But we think voters choose
their own vices, if not vice
presidents, and so how could we
fault Philip Morris for unveiling
perhaps the most novel delivery
system for a corporate party line
this year? Contributions Watch, a
faux "grassroots organization," was
a completely fraudulent front
created solely to pillory the trial
lawyers' lobby and push "tort
reform," funded by Philip Morris in
the hope that they might head off
any more of those pesky
multibillion-dollar product
liability lawsuits. The scheme,
however, happily tickled enough gag
reflexes that the truth was outed in
short order.
 
You could easily argue that our aches
and pains are merely the price to be
paid for living in a democracy, and
that clumsy ideological kickboxing
is merely the quadrennial (or
biennial or sextennial) rent payment
on our collective loft of liberty.
We might even believe you, given our
punch-drunk state, if it weren't for
the fact that so many of the choices
we were given weren't choices at all -
like deciding between TBS and TNT,
or Dishwalla and the Lemonheads.
 
 
Like promises of "fat pipes" and
"free bandwidth" and 500 channels
and personal filters we've been
hearing about for years, this year's
election proved once again that
America is much more about
meaningless choices than it is about
labor-saving, productivity-enhancing
devices. Four more years of Bill
Clinton, along with at least two
more years of a Republican Congress,
will provide plenty to scoff at, but
plenty of nothing in the way of
working government. The Bridge to
the Twenty-First Century may well
get built, but probably with a toll
plaza at either end where most of us
will get a really nasty kidney
punch.
 
Hmm. Maybe there is a way to describe
this pounding headache after all,
this woozy hangover brought on by a
surfeit of civic duty. This morning
feels a little bit like being
slapped around by the schoolyard
bully, who also happens to be class
president, and whose favored MO is
to grab our own arm and pummel us
with it, all the while taunting us
with the words, "Why yuh hittin'
yourself? Why yuh hittin' yourself?
Why yuh hittin' yourself?"
 

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