Columns » Bob Lancaster

Late in the game

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I'm interested in this Republican/Tea Party proposal to save the country by destroying it. As I understand it, the idea is that the House of Representatives becomes a death panel of sorts that mulls shutting down the government by refusing it authorization to continue borrowing money to pay its bills.

We'd still have soldiers, plenipotentiaries, firemen and garbage haulers and road-builders, judges and crime-fighters, revenooers and postmen, spies and hooded torturers — we just wouldn't be able to pay them.

We'd still pay our U.S. savings bond holders and other creditors but it would have to be with Monopoly money. Social Security, Medicare, veterans' benefits and the other entitlements — we'd pay those with Monopoly money too. Or with pretend money. With IOUs.  Brozine. Or by telling them on payday what Veep Cheney told Sen. Leahy that time.

By the time we realized that the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave had just been brought down not justifiably by an eyeless Samson but ridiculously by a krewe of hoohoos led by an orange dick, the US of A would be as fracked as Cleburne County, dead as a hammer, and the stock tickers, while they still worked, would show the rest of the world rubbling down behind us. Pretty much the end of civilization as we know it.

Is that possible?  It's crazy, but crazy is the norm now. Crazy is in charge. You've seen it running around out there with its Harpo horn and seltzer bottle, walking to school and carrying its lunch: is it a picture that would warm a Founding Father's confidence in his posterity? Does it shore you up in this shaky epoch?

It's as if every incoming committee chairman slipped the same booby hatch restraints. If somebody whanged the dinner gong, would they all scuttle back with tucked tails? It's such a nut world that a Mike Ross wouldn't even qualify as one. Looking at him now through the eyes of yesterworld, you'd say yep, he and Marty Feldman and Rip Taylor and Jerry Colonna, but today, 2011, if you drew a line between the Nuts and the Nots, he wouldn't even come close. He wants to real bad, you can tell, but blue dog to winged monkey you just don't get there from here.  

So it's not dumb but it is crazy, more John C. Calhoun than Algonquin J., and I'll not be surprised if they try it and I'll not be surprised if they git-r-done. I don't think there'll even be any remorse, from them or from anybody, as we all stand around the ruins ogling the fallen giant in silent astonishment, with no Charleton Heston to call us maniacs and damn us all to hell, nobody saying anything except here and there an anticlimactic yee-haw, semi-embarrassed as if unsure of its appropriateness.

I'll not be surprised that this is what it comes down to, because not only these kooks but comparatively sane Americans seem to have got tired of their old country, its hoary traditions and ideals, tired of the high expectations it puts on them — that they be decent and civil and respectful of different backgrounds and outlooks and circumstances and interests. Or anyhow that's how it appears; that they're tired of respectability that the liberal tradition confers, tired of crowning their good with brotherhood, and are feeling the anarchic allure of just tearing s—t up or tearing it down. Just because they can. Because they've wriggled themselves into a position from which they can make it happen. Because you gave them your OK.

So it goes. It's happened before and you have to lead, follow, or get out of the way. A little late in the game for a Going Out of Business sale, but I've turned my attention to what we still might salvage before it all falls in on itself and the fat lady goes to benedict.  

And first thing that occurs to me is that we ought to unload Guam. You might ask who'd be left to take it off'n our hands and I can't answer you that, but I'm right sure we won't be needing Guam. I'm not sure we ever did.

Raffle off all the suddenly pointless infrastructure, then sell off the National Parks. The Saudis might want Rushmore, austerely reassembled amongst their derricks as a four-headed Sphinx, and Seminole casino breakage should get them the Everglades back with no prob. Jellystone to the average bears?  Do I hear an offer on crumbling baths that used to rubberize gangsters and race horses and paupers with STDs?

Then the National Forests, maybe homesteading them out to these unemployed, like the Sooner land rush, only this time in their leaky-muffler old Darts and Furies with 300K miles on them and hardly any of the original paint. We could sell the Brooklyn Bridge like Phil Silvers used to do, over and over, until there isn't one, and then some more. I my very own self have enough personally Beck-gnawed XAUUAD squirreled under the yard flamingo yonder to buy the Library of Congress for the exact amount that the bluenose reps paid the beggared Sage of Monticello for the original just to have the pleasure of bonfiring all the saucy romans a clef he'd brought back from Gay Paree.

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