A Wonderfully Delightful Menagerie, at Least for Some, at Least for Now

A huge, loud, somewhat obnoxious seemingly self-propelled vacuum cleaner swallows the contents of a room full of smoke and mirrors leaving it empty and vacuous; a metaphor for legislative politics in the United States. Little changes, very little, but it’s appearances that matter. There was really nothing there to start with but the noise, oh the noise, the gloriously terrible noise, like a medley of religious hymns and military bands mixed with a bit of blue grass and country music, but never a trace of jazz. No, jazz is out. Too confusing.

Dodd Frank is on its way out, not that there was ever much to it. Obamacare is on its way out, not that there was ever much to it. The Paris Climate Acord, at least with respect to the United States federal government is on its way out, not that there was ever much to it. Each of these political instruments addressed important societal problems with policies designed, not to solve them but to obfuscate them, to provide the illusion that they were being addressed, preserving the privileged position of those to whom resolution would prove, let’s say, … inconvenient. Pablum for the clamoring masses to quell their racket while permitting the masters to continue with theirs (a double entendre); but a bit more quietly, with a bit more subtlety. Now they’re being knocked on their butts by the newly installed cleanup and wrecking crew, creating the horrible possibility that the real underlying problems will have to be addressed anew. Don’t they know what they’re doing? What if the paper tigers wake?

“Can’t have that, can’t have that” bellow the followers of the orange haired lady!!!! “We need to maintain the illusions we so carefully crafted.” “Knock it all down” respond the followers of the yellow haired man, “blow it all away”. In the background a choir sings something about the apocalypse and Jesus and judgment day and evil gays and feminists and colored folk and socialists.

A tiny audience looks on pleased with their pets. “Aren’t they just precious” purrs an elderly matron, once beautiful, almost hidden in furs laced with diamonds? “Adorable” responds a bulbous white haired codger in formal eveningwear swilling champagne. “Why are they fighting” inquires a slender, somewhat younger nouveaux member of the aristocracy? “Oh, they’re not really fighting” replies an elderly matron, “they’re just keeping those horrid masses distracted”.

In a large stadium a distance away, set amidst slums disguised as affordable housing, a huge horde seems to be engaged in gladiatorial contests, tearing each other to bits under the guidance and prodding of orange and yellow haired overseers. The proceedings are televised on wide-wide-screen, ultrahigh definition receivers in the drawing room of a palace in which the tiny audience plays, all of whom have their thumbs pointing down (historically inaccurate metaphor but accuracy rarely matters now). Chilled champagne and finger foods circulate. “Oh, the more things stay the same” one murmurs, “oh yes, oh yes” someone responds in a patriarchal Boston accent with a trace of Irish lilt, then from somewhere else, the sounds of orgasms (some apparently faked).

From the left side of one of the television screens a disturbing sight appears, a few spoilsports refuse to participate in the carnage and are trying to separate combatants, attending to their wounds, or trying to, the mob seems set on not permitting them to intervene even if it means their own injuries will not be attended. “Boooooo” yells the tiny audience, almost in chorus. “Booooo!!!! Can’t have that.”

Orange and yellow haired overseers who are employees of the tiny audience and are aware they are being watched react with a bit of trepidation, a trace of fear, they need their dosages to keep flying high, fleeing those very rare but always horrible instances of withdrawal. “Not to worry” they chant, responding as a somewhat discordant chorus, “we’ll get them in line. Split up!” they yell, “time for Act fifty-seven, scene fifteen. Places all, … Now, …. Action!!!!”

Congress is called to disorder, myriad committees obfuscate, news crews apply screws, faux solutions are passionately debated but outside, a small group marches in protest with homemade banners proclaiming: “Bullshit” and “You can’t fool all of us all of the time” and “Shame” and “Real Solutions to real problems”. The television crews studiously and scrupulously ignore them. A director demands that extras be called in for a counter demonstration. “Yes sir” responds a uniformed guard, oh, I mean, a “police officer”. He goes to a closet and pulls out a bunch of plastic dummies, … err, mannequins, no, no, I mean, errr, concerned citizens. He turns on a device with loud prerecorded messages, repeated over and over again in shrill hysterical voices: “Save Dodd Frank and Obamacare and the Paris Climate Acord!!!!! Impeach the usurper!!!! Status quo, status quo, status quo! Save our sacred two party system!!!!” He then turns to another closet and pulls out another set of purported participants sets them up and turns on another recording, this one shouting “Repeal Dodd Frank and Obamacare and the Paris Climate Acord!!!!! Save the President!!!! Status quo, status quo, status quo! Save our sacred two party system!!!!” Obedient television “news” crews faithfully broadcast the latter “proceedings”, of course, ignoring the former.

The images are quickly televised to opposite sides of the colosseum where the gladiators’ combat has lost its zest, orange and yellow haired overseers direct attention to the appropriate screens and the fighting renews. The small group that had momentarily managed to sooth the combat is promptly trampled by both sides.

Watching from their protected enclave the tiny audience politely claps. “Ah, isn’t our democracy just grand” whispers an ancient but plastically preserved lady in an elegant evening gown studded with opals and emeralds. In a corner an alley cat watches, somehow having invaded the preserve of the rich and famous. He eyes the finger food and salivates, swiftly jumps on a table full of left over goose liver pate and starts to lick the plates clean; he’s spotted by a terrified poodle who begins to bark loudly but the cat escapes to tell friends about what he’s found.

“Terrorists, terrorists” scream the guests. “Shut the doors, call out the guards, sound the alarm”. “Who’s got the napalm”, someone asks? “Is it the Russians again” a terrified matron asks? “No, no, they were Muslims I tell you” screams a frightened waiter, forgetting his place and being quickly stared down. “The Russians it is” he corrects himself, “it’s always the Russians. Damned commies”, then slinks away pocketing some of the finger food to bring back to his orange and yellow haired cronies at the DNC and RNC and other acronyms in the Acronymous States of America.

Dodd Frank is on its way out, not that there was ever much to it. Obamacare is on its way out, not that there was ever much to it. The Paris Climate Acord, at least with respect to the United States federal government is on its way out, not that there was ever much to it. Each of these political instruments addressed important societal problems with policies designed, not to solve them but to obfuscate them, to provide the illusion that they were being addressed, preserving the privileged position of those to whom resolution would prove, let’s say, … inconvenient. Pablum for the clamoring masses to quell their racket while permitting the masters to continue with theirs (a double entendre); but a bit more quietly, with a bit more subtlety. Now they’re being knocked on their butts by the newly installed cleanup and wrecking crew, creating the horrible possibility that the real underlying problems will have to be addressed anew. Don’t they know what they’re doing? What if the paper tigers wake?

Horrors!!!!!

“Naw, just kidding. … Status quo, status quo, status quo!!”

A pack of hungry cats look on from shadows on the sidelines, licking their chops. But they are definitely not purring.

Hope springs eternal.
_______

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2017; all rights reserved

Guillermo Calvo Mahé is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia. Until recently he chaired the Political Science, Government and International Relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He has academic degrees in political science, law, international legal studies and translation studies and can be contacted at wacalvo3@autonoma.edu.co. Much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

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