Saturday, October 30, 2010

“The political and commercial morals of the United States are not merely food for laughter, they are an entire banquet.”—Mark Twain


POLLYBOLLOCKS, guest blogger

This afternoon The American Friend watched live feed of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in Washington D.C. It looked cold in that town, judging from the hats and scarves. I’m far too nice to say anything bad about a bunch of people who drove all the way to the Capitol for this event on a day they could have been kicking up autumn leaves or doing something, you know, meaningful. So, I will step outside normal for a change and allow my good friend and relentless ranter, Pollybollocks, to be guest blogger. She’s not a gal to be bridled and prefers always the un as in unbridled, undiminished, unconvinced and unimpressed, to name a few uns.

Welcome Pollybollocks:

Cheers! The American Friend and I have not known each other for very long, but have already formed a deep bond, almost like alter egos, you might say. I’m younger than she is and beautiful. My hair is thick and healthy and my teeth are strong and white. I have no need of a job, nor do I require health insurance like my poor friend. I do whatever I like, when I like. I am a Native New Yorker, just like my American Friend. But where we differ is I am one-quarter black, one-quarter white, one-quarter Native American and three-quarters Amazonian. My grandmother was Chinese. I am a transgendered Lesbian who loves men and is in a committed relationship with a few straights, many more gays and we have a rainbow family of above-average children who have never been to Lake Woebegone. I don’t care about syntax or grammar if it gets in the way, though I don’t think spell-check is invading my freedoms. Yet.

So, when she asked me to guest blog on that lame-o event in Washington D.C. I readily accepted. And it was lame. A few hundred million mostly white people drove many, many miles for long hours to basically see a kinda crap Daily Show. Outside. In the cold. I knew it was gonna be a washout when they started off with the feckin’ WAVE bullshit. Oh, yeah, my mama was a Brit so I slide into that every now and again. Cute, innit? Anyway, why didn’t they all just go to a football game? They had the weather for it. But I digress.

Now if some celebrity (and to be honest I hadn’t a feckin’ clue who those two guys were who were so obviously put onstage to wind up the audience) called me part of a meat orchestra I’d be pretty put out. It was a WHITE meat orchestra, if you please. Very nearly everyone in the crowd looked white. I didn’t see many, or even a few, black and brown faces in that cheerful crowd. Maybe they were in the back of the mall, wa-a-ay in the back. Elmo and Big Bird were easily spotted in their bright orange and yellow costumes and I thought fleetingly: “Maybe there are African American persons in those costumes.” There were a fair number of black performers onstage so how can I bitch? Watch me.

So the crowd was missing its color. Better yet, where were the Robocops, Star Wars assault weapons and mounted police on horses bred to be twenty-feet tall with nostrils flared at the scent of a protester? Where were the thunderous black helicopters drowning out the revolutionary message from the speakers below? Oh, right. The least they could have done was a flyover for that poem read by the always-avuncular Sam Waterston. That begged to be drowned out. Where were the goddamned FREE-SPEECH pens!

Father Guido Sarducci was dragged out of retirement to deliver the invocation. He is OLD! Though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. My American Friend is heading down that road. But what is unforgivable are old jokes. At least he wasn’t a raging homophobic Fundamentalist preacher, like the one who opened the Inaugural ceremony for, um, President Obama.

Cat Stevens, now known as Yusef, gave me a glimmer of hope, though I wondered how the hell he finally got his visa. Nice that Stewart coached the WHITE crowd on the pronunciation of the singer’s first name, conveniently ignoring his last name, which is Islam, just in case it sounded too, you know, Muslim-y. I am not a cringer by nature but I damned near cringed when reformed bat-eater Ozzy Osbourne took the stage with Yusef—pronounced Joseph. An epic battle of the Peace Trains ensued. Not. If that’s what Yusef had to promise to get stateside then I haz a sad, a big feckin’ sad. Whatever the hell Ozzy was promised I don’t wanna know.

The O Jays came on—three of them—and my American Friend’s husband, who she coyly (too coyly I think) calls “The Mister,” wondered aloud: “I thought there were four of them.” There’s a conspiracy behind that I’m sure. They cleverly amended their hit song to “…tell all the folks in Egypt and Israel too….” I guess Palestinians didn’t rhyme with anything. Nor would apartheid, poverty, fear, and blockade, it seems.

Who IS this audience? In the spirit of sanity they went all that way to watch a giant monitor. Why is former flight attendant Steve Slater—a drunk who, okay, got fed up with asshole passengers on his flight—why is he still in the bloody news? Oh and another class act, Teresa Giudice, whose New Jersey housewife voice I never, ever hope to hear ever again in my entire life. Ever. Is this what these people are watching? God help America.

In front of a backdrop—a small forest really—of American flags and the Capitol building Stewart asked the question we had all been waiting for. “Was this rally a tremendous success—or—a horrendous failure?” Let me think. Yeah, I’ll side step that, for now.

Medals were given out, sanity awards. To. A. Baseball. Player. Who couldn’t accept it because he was a trillion miles from Washington. Was there no one worthy who might have been closer, who could have appeared in person to accept the award? Thankfully yeah, that cute dude, Jacob Isom, who bravely stole a Koran from a right-wing nut job that was going to burn it. And then Jacob—Jake to me, now—said simply, “Thank You” and tossed his medal into the audience. Why isn’t he running for President?

The program actually grew some teeth—okay baby teeth—when it took NPR to task, among other news outlets, for not allowing their employees to attend the rally. So, the medal of a naked man running with scissors was presented to a seven-year-old girl who has more courage than an NPR employee. At least she was there to accept the award in person.

Some of the signs were…cute. My favorite: GOD HATES SNUGGIES.

Sad Jeff Tweedy, who my American Friend loves, teamed up with Mavis Staples and they sang a sad, sad song. Velma Hart accepted the award for reasonableness. They showed a clip of President Obama. Three days before Election Day. Smooth move, Dems. Nobody said a word about exploding printer cartridges. It wasn’t that kind of crowd. Anderson Cooper’s tight black t-shirt won an award. Kid Rock was resurrected to, in his words, perform the only serious song of the day. He even used the word ironic, because Tweedy and Mavis weren’t serious enough, or ironic. Kid meant to say the only bad song of the day but whatever. He had Sheryl Crow getting the crowd to clap along to profound lyrics like: “I can’t stop the war, shelter the homeless, feed the poor. The least that I can do is care.” Yeah, well that is the feckin’ least you can do. But you can volunteer at a homeless shelter, tutor an inner city kid, work to abolish the death penalty, protest the war and man the lines at a soup kitchen, you feckin eejit. Yay passive America! Home of the Free, Land of the Let Somebody Else Do It. Sheryl, undeterred from sunshiney lyrics, implored her audience to “…dance ‘till our troubles fade away.” The yellow bouncing ball? Shoot me before I follow along with one of those. Sing what, exactly? Ba bup ba ba ba…”

O-o-oh, but they took a swipe at Mark Zuckerberg. Then they posted the whole thing on facebook. He’s shaking in his Birkenstocks.

At around half-time the cameras panned over an audience checking their cell phones, texting embellished accounts of their lame day and thinking: “OMG, the gridlock will be hellish getting out of this place.” And I was beginning to wax nostalgic for the kids in black hoodies and face scarves that can be counted on at every antiwar protest to burn the flag. (Full disclosure: I always chastise those little brats.) I certainly did miss the real protest songs of Joan Baez and Pete Seeger, noticeable by their absence. I could tell my American Friend wondered where all the free and reduced rate bus rides were that had got hundreds of thousands of unemployed and financially strapped citizens across the country to rallies in the past. There were those HuffPo busses but they got there kinda late. Dawn departure? From SOHO? I think not. Many in the crowd attending the rally were probably employed, students, or young people who had parents who were employed. Jon Stewart asked: “You guys having a nice time so far?”

The low points of the event, if that’s even possible, was some Daily Show huckster—on the monitor— selling the “I Was There” certificate (oh, the irony) and an exchange between Stewart and Colbert in matching American Flag-patterned fleece that was less ingenious than any 4th grader in a schoolyard skirmish: “Everyone has a right to be patriotic!” “Why don’t you marry it then?”

I’m a cynic. So shoot me.

Last night I was a fly on the shoulder of my American Friend who attended a fundraiser with The Mister and a couple of their dear friends at The Brecht Forum, which is an independent educational and cultural center downtown. It was billed as “A Halloween Party to Stop the FBI Witch Hunt.” The FBI had recently raided the homes & offices of anti-war and international solidarity activists in several cities, issuing subpoenas to appear before a grand jury. It was a fun night and my American Friend and The Mister met lovely people dedicated to important causes. I had been warned by my American Friend to stay out of sight and not to breathe one cynical word. I watched helplessly as she engaged a perfectly lovely woman who planned on going to the Stewart rally the next day. I could see how perplexed my American Friend was. She mentioned that if only there was so much attention to the loss of civil liberties, the need to show a powerful force that could have thwarted the heinous Patriot Act in early days after 9/11. The nice woman responded by urging her to “Stay in the moment dear.” “Say something,” I prodded in an urgent whisper. “Please, please, just tell her you are in the feckin’ moment and wouldn’t be in this particularly disastrous feckin’ moment in our country’s time if people had taken to the streets like she did and a handful of others a month after 9/11. None of us would be facing this shit—what civil liberties we have lost, the rise of a corporate-designed and funded Tea Party, and allowing baggage inspectors to cop a free feel, if it had not taken so long for people to see what our government had in store for us.” But she’s too nice.

My American Friend was forced to miss the last half hour of the televised rally this afternoon. Because she is unemployed and seemingly unemployable, she walks dogs for grocery money. Partly by choice, as she can follow that dream every creative person has—to paint, to make music, and in her case, to write. Luxuries like clothes and restaurants be damned. In the spirit of solidarity still clinging to me from the benefit last night, I accompanied her on her rounds with her two favorite canines. The fall weather was beautiful—crisp and just beginning to blush with color—and she confessed some disappointment in bothering to watch the telecast in Washington D.C., invariably wasting three hours of time that could have been better spent.

We returned to find we had missed Tony Bennett’s performance. Now that was a disappointment.

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