From Out of a Rotting Log


Just dragged my scrawny carcass in from Washington, the heart of darkness, with the usual sense — usual now — of having visited an asylum. I figure Salvador Dali designed the government. Or maybe Ionesco or Someone deeply twisted with a sick sense of humor.

In the airports, the same obedience training — take off your shoes, belt, watch, fillings, prostate, so we can to learn to respect the authority of low-IQ federalized renta-cops with the psyches of school-yard bullies. God save us from the congenitally unimportant. From PA systems came the same pointless security-babble having nothing to do with security, in the same over elocuted I-wanna-lick-the-microphone female voices. Well, it’s not quite pointless. We must condition the rubes, give them an inspiriting sense of danger so they will do as they are told. It’s awful. I’m going to apply for a change of phylum.

It got worse. I discovered that America is about to have an election. Why? Every time they do that, no good comes of it. You’d think they’d learn.

Ass usual, the election is a popularity contest run for dimwits. And to elect a dimwit, which is worse. We’ve got this woman Palin, an angry Betty Crocker, absolutely unqualified for the presidency in case McCain goes tits up. She’s ignorant of foreign affairs, at best moderately bright, a whackjob Christian, and a “pit bull.” This is said admiringly.

Oh good. An aggressive ignorant dull-witted-pit bull. How is that better than a passive ignorant torpid pit bull?

Oh god, McCain. A senescent replica of Bush who says he wants to stay in Iraq a hundred years. Actually, the idea has its appeal. Why doesn’t he go there and get a start? A perfect match for Palin, another pugnacious dunce, bottom of his class in boat school — the Naval Academy, I mean. He says he plans to “confront Russia.” Now there’s a plan. It seems that American policy is to make enemies of everyone who has oil or nuclear weapons. Or doesn’t.

Meanwhile the Pentagon prepares for war with China. Is it something in the water?

Next we have Obama, whose only qualification is that he’s maybe a tad less bellicose than the rest of these Oprah Neanderthals. His veep, Biden, is a grey nonentity, a cipher with no characteristics. Well, that’s better than the other three. I mean, he’s as close to no candidate as we can come.

What are we doing? The country has gone nuts. If a giant squirrel began collecting us and storing us for winter, I’d understand. Three hundred million people, and these factory rejects the best we can do?

Actually, I do understand it, barely. The undergirding of American politics is the seldom-stated but always audible cry of “You ain’t no gooder’n me!” We have government by inferiority complex. The last thing the great burger-chomping, reality-show-watching mental vacuum out there wants is anyone who might make reglar folks feel inferior. The cloth of the country is woven of resentment. The public wants a regular guy, comfortingly stupid, who watches NASCAR and in broken English as if recently concussed. Few would select a cardiac surgeon from a bus station, but it’s how we do presidents.

You probably can get elected holding a chain saw and a severed head, but not if you know words of three syllables.

It’s getting scary. The more angry and miserable things get at home, the more people want to smack hell out of someone. It doesn’t matter who. The American attitude toward the world is, “Not only can I lick anybody in this bar, but I can lick all of you at once.” Before I said that, I’d want to be real sure who was in the bar.

At least two of these gong-show dregs, Palin and Bush, blame their personality disorders on God. Yes. They think God wants them to blow hell out of more or less everybody. We’re talking wars of religion, boys and girls. Christian loons in the US, Jewish loons in Israel, and Moslem loons widely distributed, all wanting to blow people up because God told them. I want a signed affidavit from God. Or a drink. Whatever happened to grownups?

I babble, but it’s hard to think straight when contemplating nuclear-armed kindergarteners. In Washington, I saw about ten friends, many of them biochemists, lawyers, programmers, freelance screwballs, what have you. Sitting at the Zoo Bar one night (so called because it’s across Connecticut Avenue from the zoo, not because of its clientele) a dismal epiphany struck me, kersplat, like a sock full of hog kidneys:

I don’t know anybody who isn’t better qualified to be president than anyone who is or is about to be.

Of the ten friends I mentioned, the baseline IQ is close to 140 and goes up, often lots up. All of them are well read and many have spent a lot of time overseas. All speak and write good English and, some of them, foreign languages. They aren’t geniuses, just upper-middle-brow. But they are way better than the rabble running for the White House.

I don’t get it. For president, I want somebody lots brighter than I am, who knows history, who speaks a few languages, maybe spent time in the military without being an officer and therefore a warped buzz-cut Boy Scout. They exist. I have friends who knew where South Ossetia was twenty years ago, and why, who know the military and military history and what works and what doesn’t and why. I’m not like that. Not smart enough. But they are. Yet we get candidates who could probably run a small-town hardware store. Reglar folks, though.

Democracy is a bad idea, I tell you. Granted, we’ve never really tried it. From Jefferson to our current bumbling mutant, the trick has been to let people think they have power without really trusting them with it. For a long time we had rule by a high-WASP elite that actually had some sense of noblesse oblige, tempered by sufficient corruption to keep them in gravy. The Roosevelts for example. You can disagree with their policies, but they weren’t penny-ante pickpocket proles with learning disabilities.

Today we get grasping zeros who would embarrass a trailer park in Arkansas. Ah, but they are of the people, and don’t make anyone feel inadequate. In everything that counts, which means involving money, we have rule by corporations, through legalized corruption far more lucrative than Latin America could dream of.

I have a theory that countries deserve what they get, at least when it’s internally generated. Belgium didn’t deserve to be overrun by Germany, but Belgium didn’t elect Hitler. It’s going to be a funny eight years.

Fred Reed is author of Nekkid in Austin: Drop Your Inner Child Down a Well and the just-published A Brass Pole in Bangkok: A Thing I Aspire to Be. Visit his blog.

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