Monday, March 7, 2011

Of Americans

This has been a very trying twenty-four hours.

I made the mistake of purchasing Twilight of the Assholes by Tim Kreider at the Emerald City Comic-Con yesterday. Like most of my best literary finds (The Myrkin Papers, I Was Told There'd Be Cake, et al.), I picked it up based mostly on the strength of its title. The accuracy and truth of the obese hag replacing Lady Liberty on the cover merely sealed the deal. This is a theme that would repeat itself throughout the book; Kreider has an uncanny knack for drawing the ugliest parts of this country.

It represents, essentially, the concerted efforts of a thinking person to keep himself from going completely batshit insane during a time when his country has already lost that fight. And I do mean his country, because it is clear that, despite all the vitriol he flings on the idiot public and our elected officials, he has a deep respect for the ideals that this place ostensibly stands for. In one essay, one downright harrowing essay, he asks what happened to the country that he grew up in. Typically when people ask this, they are wondering why it is that Kids These Days wear their pants so gad dang low, or why Them Faggits are suddenly allowed to touch each other in public. When Kreider asks, he wants to know how we went from a country where an anti-war comedy was the most beloved program on television to a country where people routinely suggest that 150,000 confirmed Iraqi civilian deaths are acceptable losses in the War on Terror.

It is a salient question.

It is answered, in part, by welfare. The right-wing hate machine has successfully turned the term into a curse. If you ask someone if they are for welfare, it is statistically likely that they will say they are not. However, if you ask them how they feel about each individual element of social programs, never mentioning that these are the pieces of welfare, they are far, far more likely to be in favor of them. The difference is truly shocking; people are something like 60% more likely to be in favor of welfare if you simply call it something else. There are a lot of conclusions to draw from this.

But I am a cynic.

Accordingly, I immediately spot the most unpleasant conclusion: education and knowledge are incredibly important to justice, fairness, and the democratic process- but most people simply do not have enough of either.

The book builds to the 2008 election and then erupts in elation, with one of its only genuinely sweet illustrations: the author standing with his friends at Barack Obama's inauguration. Those of us with the benefit of hindsight know that this was, perhaps, premature. Even a scant few weeks later, Kreider knew, deep down, that this was nourishment for a body too far gone: "The Republican Party will be resurgent sooner than anyone would like to think. Like herpes, conservatism lies dormant in the nervous system of the republic, waiting for times of stress, for our resistance to weaken, when it will erupt scabrously anew."

The beginning of the end is decompression, written during the idylls of Obama's first summer in office. Kreider's prose becomes hazy and apologetic, then, finally, resigned: "We have fulfilled our national destiny according to our own ideal: we lived fast and died young. The corpse, however, may be less than beautiful."
Really, this is the cusp of the matter: the truth of the American public is too disgustingly ugly to be admitted.
That's all for now.

No comments:

Post a Comment