My sister Apolitica called me yesterday. “Dolton’s really upset,” she said of her spouse.
“What happened? Did someone peel the ‘I heart Dubya’ sticker off his beloved new truck?” I asked ever empathetically of my Bush-lovin’, Rush-adorin’, flag-wavin’, magnet-displayin’ brother-in-law, the one who’d just recently somehow scraped together a skeletal down payment for a $35,000 fully-loaded four-wheel drive even though he, my sister and their nine-year-old son (Dolton, Jr.) don’t have a pot to piss in and are already giraffe eyeball-high in debt.
“No, no,” she answered. “His grandpa’s ill again and having trouble getting an appointment to see the doctor. You know how close those two are.”
Indeed, I did know this. It was actually one of Dolt’s few redeeming qualities, the affection he had for his namesake grandfather. I also knew the old Dolt was a disabled veteran and figured his trouble getting treated was almost certainly related to the relentless assaults by the chickenhawk Bush administration on benefits fully due those who’ve honorably served in America’s armed forces.
“Hey, sis, put Dolt on the line,” I said. Normally, requesting to speak with Dolton could only mean I was running a dangerously high fever or having a dreadful nightmare. Or both. But his grandfather (who, despite being at least partly responsible for my brother-in-law’s existence, is a good guy) was hurting, and besides, I thought, Dolt is only human, or nearly so. I went for it.
It was, of course, a mistake. Will I never learn?
Dolt came to the phone. “Yeah, what is it?” he snarled. I drew a breath and enjoyed this high point while it lasted.
“I’m sorry to hear about your grandfather. How’s he doing?”
“Not so hot.” Dolt throttled back a bit. “His old stomach wound is acting up again, he’s in pain, and he can’t get in to see the doctor for another few weeks. There’s something seriously wrong with that system.”
“It’s a real disgrace, all right,” I said. “Your grandpa bravely drops behind enemy lines on D-Day, gets shot up, endures several operations and decades of discomfort, and now the government says take a hike.”
Dolt’s voice thinned. “I suppose you’re gonna tell me now it’s all the Bush administration’s fault.”
And so we were off…
“Well, not the wounding part,” I replied. “Although, on the other hand, since we’re talking World War II vintage grandfathers, perhaps if the one that belonged to your dear Dubya hadn’t fronted for the Nazis during those early salad days for the Bush family, a number of good men like your grandpa might have been spared a lifetime of pain and delayed doctor visits and still others might not have been snuffed out in their primes.”
“You’re crazy,” Dolt grunted.
“Every time we speak,” I responded, “that very thought goes through my head,” a remark that flew right over his. “Regardless, what’s truly crazy, or at least unforgivably ignorant, is to support someone like Dubya who, like his granddaddy Prescott and pappy Poppy, couldn’t give a blasted ass about who lives or dies as long as he and crooked cronies can keep the blood, and thus the blood money, flowing.”
“What’re you talkin’ about?” Dolt exclaimed. “Bush praises the troops all the time!”
“Well, then, maybe all your grandpa needs to do is take two acclamations and call you in the morning.”
“Never mind. But if phony praise was all it took to keep troops and veterans in good stead, the way Dubya dishes it out, none of ‘em would ever have so much as a hangnail. Unfortunately, his actions speak far louder than any of his empty attaboys, and boy, has he emptied it big-time onto those he’s sent out behind The Big Lie to do his murderous bidding. In January 2005, Veterans for Peace reported:
The last four years [have] been marked by the president proposing reductions in funding for veterans’ benefits and unsuccessful efforts by Congress to keep minimal funding for veterans flowing. ...The White House … openly requested a cut of $844 million from the 2004 veterans budget and a cut of $910 million from the 2005 veterans budget. When Congress proposed an additional $1.3 billion for veterans health care in [a FY 2004 bill, the] White House squelched the allocation. … Due to the funding cuts, the [Department of Veterans Affairs medical] system was forced to eliminate 6,000 hospital beds, just as 235,000 veterans sat on waiting lists for VA care.
“And, just the other day,” I said, simmering, “Andrew Taylor of the Associated Press wrote that new proposed cuts by Bush ‘would prove traumatic to the already troubled VA medical system, and would force staff cuts, delay investment in new medical equipment and deny care to hundreds of thousands of veterans.’”
“So tell me, Dolt,” I fumed, “if your grandpa now can’t get seen even for wounds the VA’s known about for 60 years, who the hell’s gonna take care of the thousands of soldiers grievously injured in Iraq and, now it horrifyingly appears, yet to be in Iran?”
I swear I heard Dolton’s jaw clench through the line and could almost feel him mentally rifling through his cut-and-paste Fox News talking points. Right on cue, he spat:
“Look, Mark, those soldiers knew what they were getting into when they signed up!” Dolt’s knee-jerk reactionism had fully kicked in, and grandpa, a man for whom Dolt cared deeply, was suddenly forgotten. Instantly, it was all about the idiotic ideology.
“You mean,” I pressed, “recruiters are finally telling kids the truth these days that they’ll be killing and possibly dying to protect the sanctity of multinational corporate profits?”
“That’s just stupid,” Dolt said exasperatedly. “Our soldiers protect us from barbaric fundamentalists who threaten our civil liberties and American way of life.”
“Oh, so, in other words, our neocon-directed military illegally invades a defenseless country and kills and tortures people in the process so Americans here at home can enjoy warrantless searches and pile up crushing debt to cram their garages full of stuff?”
“I don’t see how that’s even Germanic,” he snapped, utilizing an unsettlingly germane malapropism given the parallels between today’s America and a certain country in the 1930s.
Just then, I heard my nephew in the background.
“Daddy, daddy! Let's go take a ride in your new truck!”
“Not now, little Dolt; I'm talking to your communist uncle,” my brother-in-law sneered.
“Uh, that's ‘columnist,’” I said.
“Ha! Same thing,” Dolton harrumphed, no doubt as the indoctrinated canard “liberal media” swam through his mind. (More like “waded,” considering the area’s spatial limitations.)
I changed the subject -- sort of. “So this spanking new Toyota Tundra of yours: How do you expect to pay for it?”
He was boiling now. “It’s none of your damn business.”
“It sure will be when we all end up living oh-so-harmoniously together in my apartment after you’ve gone belly up because you can’t make the ridiculous payments.”
“That won’t happen,” he retorted. “After all, unlike some people I know, I work two full-time jobs,” he said, as if this were an enviable thing.
“Right. And they’re both low-paying positions with no benefits that don’t even enable you to keep your head above water as it is.”
“But we needed a car!” he protested.
“Then why didn’t you get a car, a reliable used one, instead of a fifteen-miles-to-the-gallon, ego-boosting wallet drainer? What do you need a four-wheel drive for, anyway? You hate the outdoors!”
“Um, yeah, true,” he mumbled almost inaudibly, “but, uh, I really wanted one after I saw my neighbor’s.”
The perfect American, I thought. “Don’t you get it, Dolton, how you play right into their hands?”
“The ones belonging to the people who own you, lock, stock and oil barrel: corporations and their bagmen infesting the government and stealing us all blind, which they couldn’t do without your enthusiastic support of their brazen lootings like the Iraq war money pit and tax giveaways to the über-wealthy that have flung our record national debt into hyperdrive; or your addiction to charging things you don’t even need thereby goosing America’s near-record consumer debt; or your falling for the con of incessant advertising and induced envy as you further indenture yourself for an extravagant import, thus doing your part to make the record US trade imbalance even more record-y.
“Congratulations, Dolt: you’ve just helped the ruling den of thieves hit the lucre trifecta.”
“But…the economy’s doing great!” he blurted in classic missing-the-point fashion while also cluing me in to the latest party line du jour pipelined by the likes of Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly.
“Yeah,” I said, “I guess -- that is, if you’re a typical CEO pulling in 430 times the average worker’s wage. But not so great, I’d say, for that same laborer whose pay has stagnated for the past thirty years. When was the last time you got a raise at either of your jobs, Dolt?”
“Uh … I don’t remember,” he murmured.
“Yet you go out anyway and mindlessly buy a four-wheeled, gas-guzzling appendage extension, thereby helping perpetuate America’s terminal dependence on the oil teat. Nice going.”
“Listen, Mark,” he growled, “the thing commies like you don’t get about America is our freedom, which means I’m free to buy whatever I damn well choose.”
“Free?” I cried. “You’re not free! You are completely enslaved, voluntarily chained to the red, white and blue-bedecked altar of unsustainable American consumerism at which you obediently worship, while your fascist creditors view you as nothing more than a throwaway consumer unit to be discarded as soon as your upkeep cost exceeds your net personal production value. The corporate masters of war howl with glee as you buy both their worthless goods and snake oil pitch about how you must constantly cower while unquestioningly pledging both fealty and your very progeny to their mighty military machine, the one that promises to save you from scary brown men while, in reality, it gobbles global goodies which it will relentlessly continue doing until the house-of-cards U.S. economy, the very one into which you put so much unstinting faith, sweat and coin, inevitably comes a-tumblin’ down, at which point, of course, comes the kicker: The throngs of America’s bamboozled sons and daughters who come home from their overseas slaughtering assignments shattered and ultimately, abandoned -- that is, if they come home at all.”
Dolton was steaming. “Why do you liberals hate America and our troops so much?”
I could set my watch: another irrelevant, right-wing sound bite. I addressed it anyway.
“Hate the troops? Hardly,” I replied evenly. “Millions of us flooded the streets repeatedly before the war started, doing everything possible to assist those pitiable pawns in the most fundamental manner: trying to keep them out of harm’s way. Many lobby tirelessly still to bring them home ASAP. Hell, even the troops themselves say it’s time to leave Iraq.”
“That’s right. Zogby International just reported that ‘72% of American troops serving in Iraq think the U.S. should exit the country within the next year, and more than one in four say the troops should leave immediately...’”
“Well, uh,” Dolton sputtered, “that’s, um…that’s exactly what lefties like you do, use the troops’ own words against them. Ha!” He sounded proud of himself.
“Yes, it is quite low, I suppose, to cite the soldiers, but, believe it or not, I can think of something even more appallingly injurious to their well-being.”
“What’s that?” he asked.
“Supporting the son of a bitch who sent them over there in the first place, who then does everything he can to screw them upon their return. You know, just like what’s happening now to your poor grandfather.”
“Dad-dy!” It was my nephew again. “Now can we go for a ride?”
“Hey, Dolt,” I said.
“What now? I need to take junior for a drive.”
“Don’t you ever worry about little Dolt’s future?”
“Nope. He already knows what he wants to be.”
I dropped the phone.
Mark Drolette is a political satirist/commentator who lives in Sacramento, California. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright © 2006 Mark Drolette. All rights reserved.
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