The Talking Dog

July 4, 2010, Happy fourth

I have no idea why I'm so amused by the reports of now 4-time champion Joey Chestnut downing 54 Nathans hot dogs in ten minutes to win the annual hot dog eating contest at Coney Island yet again, other than it takes place in Brooklyn every year, and is an amusing slice of Americana. Of course, it was also amusing that the prior champion (Mr. Kobiyashi of Japan, a six time winner), managed to get himself arrested for trying to crash the proceedings (there seems to be some contractual limitation on his competing himself... for whatever reason, he won't sign on with the organization running the contest...). Meanwhile, temperatures in the New York area are well in the 90's Fahrenheit, with clear skies all around.

Most years on July 4th, I find that I'm spouting some combination of maudlin tut-tutting or nostalgic reverence for an era that never existed to describe "the state of the nation" on what's supposed to be its birthday. But I no longer think that this sort of thing is consistent with the spirit of "independence" that the date is supposed to signify. And hence, I no longer think that publicly expressing this kind of "downer" assessment of our political state is appropriate. I will just say that the Gulf mega-spill is just the latest line in things ranging from computers to governments to militaries (how's that "close Guantanamo thing going?") to my garden hose: a world where things that we think will work... just don't. And wasting energy to try to identify "whose fault" any of this is represents the kind of fool's errand that taking too much time on will just prove detrimental to what matters now, and that is preparing ourselves and our families for the world that inevitably follows from the world where things used to work but no longer do... a much simpler, "lower tech" world, where the paramount issues will not be the apps available on your i-phone (hint: you won't get a signal, even if you had any power), but stupid things, like eating when the store shelves are empty (assuming you had any money anyway), or where you will live, or how you will get around, and how you will get around without being mugged or murdered, and so forth,

We just have to reconcile ourselves to all of this, and stop pretending that "technology will save us" when there is, of course, as much evidence of this as there is for the propositions that "capitalism will produce a fair and efficient distribution of goods and services," or "everyone is entitled to their opinion (no matter how ill-informed or stupid)" or other lies that will only serve to help kill off ourselves and our families faster, if we are foolhardy enough not to summarily reject such nonsense as the dangerous delusions that they are.

"Left" and "right" are constructions of the powerful, designed to convince us that our civic existence is some kind of sporting event; the evidence is that it is not a sporting event, and on what actually matters as the purpose of this nation, there is no difference whatsoever between the two allegedly different parties (or even, for that matter, "independents"). And lest we forget, on things like "the public option," or bringing American torturers to justice, the main impediment to these things has been from Barack Obama's White House... I guess this is what "bipartisan" means.

But let me not spend too long there, lest you think I think the machinations of our government are particularly important. They really aren't. The reason I'm still somewhat optimistic (alright, alright... the only reason I even have a kernel of optimism left) for my countrymen... is that (1) we don't vote [because we know our elections are buillsh**), and (2) we don't like soccer [the insane arbitrariness of the game just annoys our sensibilities]. With that nucleus of virtues, I am at least a little hopeful that enough of us will overcome our obesity, our pharmaceutical addiction, and the cultural wasteland in which we reside to do what needs to be done to carry on. Yes, we'll have to swallow our pride and realize that "American exceptionalism" is, aside from a blatant lie, a rather dangerous self-delusion... and we'll have to start living within our collective means, which is to say, much as the rest of humanity lives. And many of us will fail at this, and as a result, probably won't make it.

But if enough of us keep our perspective, and our senses of humor... we have a chance. And if we make it-- declaring independence from the delusions that tie us to the rich and powerful against our will, and then following through on it-- we just might make it through after all.

So... happy fourth. It's not much, but it's all I've got.