Not Only of Cowards

Howdy ever’ body, my name is Mikel W. and I am a fake.

[Crowd murmurs “howdy” and “welcome.”]

Sure nice of you folks to have a support meeting like this here group, Fakers Unanimous. I just never knew that there were enough folks in America willing to face up to their own falseness to where we could even have such a support group. I never would have guessed this many Americans were finally ready to acknowledge our economy, our country’s sense of self, in fact our very existence has been a-swirl in a Chomsky-esque wash of necessary illusions and the truths that were always mounting behind the masks are now massing to destroy us. The threads are at last unraveling; and the emperor’s new suit has arrived worn and wrinkled, shoddy and soiled.

And we ourselves are to blame.

Yipes! I am duly impressed by the pitiless self-awareness of the members of the F.U. group; but I am not sure I am ready to join just yet. There’s all that stuff about admitting we are powerless to our weakness, acknowledging our mistakes, making amends. Twelve steps may be a little bit further than I am currently willing to walk to change the channel. I am an American after all.

I want my MTV. I want all that and a bag of chips. I want to feel wanted and safe and plush and adorned and forever young and forever oblivious and I am willing to spend like crazy to get that feeling. I want it my way or the highway.

Look, I’ve already spent all of your money and all of mine. Talk about generational theft, I’ve already spent your kid’s future and my parents’ past. Yes, like most Americans I want more than my share and want you to leave me alone about it, OK? I mean it’s a free country, isn’t it? I can believe what I want to believe. I’ve got the right to do what I want, even the right to be wrong.

So that’s why I don’t want to make the effort to fix our health care and education systems. We know both continue to slide in comparison to the rest of the civilized world. In health care you have a better chance of getting struck by lightning than of affording health care that can save your life and at least with the lightning the charges would make more sense. In education, American urban high school students rank in achievement somewhere between Romanian meth-baby dropouts and moldy sweat socks.

It’s easier to pretend it’s not broken than to try to seriously fix education, so that’s what we do. We say schools are about the joy of learning then budget-cut all the fun out of it. We say there is so much they need to know then only teach them how to pass one test. We teach our kids to glory in stupidity then wonder why they’re not bright. We create every convenience item we can imagine then wonder they’re so lazy. We make money off of the punks and twerps and criminals we sell to them as idols and then wonder how it happened we’ve raised all these punks and twerps and criminals. We teach them sluts are cool, and then wonder why abstinence-only education isn’t the only thing around here that sucks.

We also tell our children how important learning is then invent every other way for them to fill up and thus empty their time. We say we love entertainment because it relaxes our mind when in fact we know it destroys it. The visual mediums, whether TV or the Internet, are meant to limit our interests not expand them. Megabyte by megabyte we get trained to learn nothing quite so much our impatience for the next thing to the point we understand no thing as seriously as our urgency for the new.

I would Twitter you about it, but if I tried to actually discuss substantial ideas then this paragraph is too long and I haven’t even said–

Economy’s a fake, entirely. The people on top won’t stop selling us the idea that we could spend all the money in the world because they make all the money in the world peddling the idea to us like dope. Since they won’t stop selling it, we don’t stop buying it and over-spending on it, even though for years folks have been telling us we should know better. We did know, but we did not care.

Small wonder this whole hopped-up fantasy economy had to crash. Every few years a new speculative bubble built up to bursting — now our very homes. Too many houses sold, some say; but from where I stand I see too many houses foreclosed. ARMs made to strangle the homeowner, the banker’s handshake that turned into a clenched fist.

Pundits like to rag on the buyers they claim should have known better. But buying a house is the American dream. It is what we were told to do. We looked to the experts, our realtors and our banks, who told us they were out for our trust when in fact they were just after a piece of our ass. The deals seemed too good to be true, but the banks and the realtors said it would work. We wanted to believe it would work, so we did. We signed on the dotted line, just like they did; but the difference is they knew it would all have to collapse one day. They simply had already planned their way to make their pile of dough first off of our dimes. Become too big to fail, so the poor have to feed the rich.

And it wasn’t just banks. If you really want to see where to start fixing the problem, look in the mirror. Everyone knew that that same house we sat in for five years while the paint rotted did not legitimately gain 100K in value. But somebody told us it did and some other idiot offered us the crazy money for it. We knew we’d get ahead so we went along.

Everyone took a hit. It was the drug of choice. Government officials swam in seas of lobbyist lucre and bent the rules for their newfound friends. Big business and big banks bent the rules for each other. Everyone was the richer. No one was the wiser.

It wasn’t like we’d learn anything from the news. News is a fake. Once upon a time news worried about its myth of impartiality. Now no news is safe from the TV newsreader’s opinion of it. Press can purport a new doggedness claiming they regret the slack attention they paid to Bush. So they pretend to be aggressive in their examination of every potential Obama flaw on the horizon. But this isn’t a case of new dogs up to old tricks. They are mostly aping the Elephant line. After eight years of cheerleading for Bush they don’t know where else to go. So nowadays CNN starts every story with a hostility they’d never have dared with Bush. Perhaps they’ve become “fair and balanced.”

Maybe so, but I think they’re fakes. I think Holden’s right, they’re all fakes, phonies. That’s why I’m here, with all of you at F.U. because I’m a fake too. And it takes one to know one. So, so are you too.

[Crowds grumbles]

War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.

[Crowd murmurs in ascent.]

And Eric Holder is also right: we are a nation of cowards, merely faking it when it comes to race relations and many other taboo topics as well, and not in that ultra-qualified and mitigated way Holder used when he spoke commemorating Black History Month. Still right wing pundits from Rush Limbaugh to Anderson Cooper umbrage at his remarks, offering us yet another opportunity to watch rich white guys scold a black man because he doesn’t understand race relations.

But if America now attempts to claim to be a post-racial society, it is not because we no longer act based on the built-in biases 400 years of subservience cannot help but inbreed, it’s not because we no longer see in black and white. It’s because we’re all just wearing masks.

Happy Black History Month, Mr. Holder, no faking.

Mikel Weisser teaches social studies and poetry on the left coast of Arizona. He can be reached at Read other articles by Mikel.

3 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. rg the lg said on February 25th, 2009 at 10:22am #

    No way I could have matched this for the pure truth it exposes … you and I, all of us … are responsible for the way things are. We have done it to ourselves … and the sad thing is that all the hype about change was just that … hype. No changes … we will continue to be the bullyboys with respect to foreign policy because that is actually what we want … no accountability for economic decisions because we like to talk, but hate walking … the analogy about the ubiquitous channel-changer under your thumb says it all … we are just too complacent … and too greedy.

    But, what else is new?

    And don’t go off saying that if we didn’t someone else would … that is just another damned excuse we like to use as we sit on top of the empire and hope that O’Bama preserves our place in the sun as we f–k over the rest of the world.

    Sad, but oh so true …

    RG the LG

  2. Ugly Deaf Muslim Punk Gurl! said on February 25th, 2009 at 1:06pm #

    Such a great article. This country is full of double standard hypocrisy… people love the Girls Gone Wild videos and Playboy playmates, but they’ll scream WHORE!!! at any young woman who has been secretly taped having sex with her boyfriend in privacy, also mocking Parisite Hilton and other celebrities for wearing provoactive clothes.

    Americans recoil at stories of the Holocaust and killing camps, yet they won’t bat an eyelash about the reports of more than 1,000 Palestinians murdered by the Israelis. While we’re on the topic of Israel, this country claims to pride itself on “seperation between church and state” yet many Americans will stauncly support Israel as a “Jewish homeland” in the name of Judaism, which pretty much goes against what America is supposed to stand for.

    Geez, double standards.

    Great article, by the way.

  3. mikel weisser said on February 25th, 2009 at 10:40pm #

    I am so honored by your comments, both of you. I feel this is one of my best pieces ever and these voices of support on this piece are incredibly gratifying.
    thank you