June 13, 2010

Take me back to the days

One distinctive aspect of the dimming hopes for the Obama Presidency is that his eclipse will definitely usher in a truly nutty interregnum of bizarre politics in America. Indeed, we're well on our way. Sharron Angle is the Republican nominee for Harry Reid's Senate seat in November. Which made me recall this scene from 'Dr. Strangelove:"

Ripper: Mandrake, have you never wondered why I drink only distilled water, or rain water, and only pure grain alcohol?

Mandrake: Well it did occur to me, Jack, yes.

Ripper: Have you ever heard of a thing called fluoridation? Fluoridation of water?

Mandrake: Ah, yes, I have heard of that, Jack. Yes.

Ripper: Well do you now what it is?

Mandrake: No. No, I don't know what it is. No.

Ripper: Do you realize that fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face?

General Ripper's solution to the problem of flouridation was to set in motion a series of events confounding the American "fail-safe" program, thus ending the world in a nuclear holocaust. It was a bout of sexual impotence which alerted Ripper to the insidious effects of flouride in the drinking water. Was his diagnosis right, or wrong? It doesn't matter; all human life was destroyed anyway.

The theory that flouride in the drinking water was a Communist plot was promulgated chiefly by the John Birch Society, founded in 1958 by the American candy manufacturer Robert Welch. Welch and his brother James invented the caramel-on-a-stick candy called the Sugar Daddy, which no doubt potentiated the formation of caries in many American mouths during the 1950's, providing as it did an ideal sugary, adhesive matrix for bacterial growth on the teeth. As I write those words, I can almost taste a Sugar Daddy in my own mouth, and feel its treacly essence against my teeth. If you bit into a Sugar Daddy, it could momentarily lock your upper and lower mandibles together. It was powerful candy. Thus, ironically (or was it?) Welch's anti-flouride campaign played directly into the hands of the Communist plot, weakening the enamel (and moral fiber) of American children.

Although my own conspiracy theory is that Robert Welch knew this when he founded the John Birch Society. He wanted us to have cavities! There is absolutely nothing easier on God's Green Earth than hatching your very own conspiracy idea, and I'm kind of proud of mine. It's just a matter of adding two plus two. Welch built on his theory with the allegation that Dwight Eisenhower, hero of V-E Day, was a paid operative of the Communist Party. The Paranoid Style of the Right Wing, the historian Richard Hofstadter called it in 1964. Ah yes, I remember it well.

Now comes this good news about Sharron Angle:

The Nevada state Assembly voted 26-16 to fluoridate the water of two Nevada counties. Angle voted against the bill.

History, as the wit said, does not necessarily repeat itself, but it does rhyme. This was really the kind of thing I was hoping for in the Tea Party Movement. Most of their ideas are incoherent, a matter of flailing in impotent rage against a Federal-Big Finance oligopoly which is strangling the country and impoverishing millions. Most fair-minded people can see that at this point; Washington's corruption is utterly complete, Wall Street is rigged in favor of a few large banks which make millions on every single trading day, the middle class is falling through the floor, the national budgetary priorities permit only war and bailouts while health care and Social Security go slowly bankrupt. There is no coherent opposition to these developments because it is essentially an Inside Job.

As long as the country is falling completely apart in the wake of the Obama debacle, however, I am at least grateful that things will be colorful and insane, the way they often were in the 1950's, the Golden Age of the Self-Made Millionaire Political Nut Job. The key point in contradistinction, however, being that America was definitely on the way up in the 1950's. Now it is just as evidently on the way down. Our incompetence and unwillingness to take our problems seriously perhaps find their best metaphor in this: the Gulf of Mexico is filling up with the oil of a foreign corporation which was under no obligation even to sell that oil to us. While our President takes lessons in Method Acting so that he can project just the right attitude of outrage to satisfy the cable news programs.

Against this kind of madness, Sharron Angle (and thank God for those two, distinctive R's in her first name! Isn't that somehow more interesting?) is diverting, appropriate and just what the doctor ordered. The know-it-alls are already laughing her off. This is a gift to Reid, they say. She's the easiest candidate to beat, because she's so loony. An anti-flouride zealot! Ha ha ha! I would say to those confident political pundits that they really need to get out more. It would not surprise me at all to see Sharron Angle in the Senate. Maybe she'll become the Majority Leader. Maybe General Jack D. Ripper did not destroy the world in vain.

1 comment:

  1. hammerud4:46 PM

    "Our incompetence and unwillingness to take our problems seriously," I believe, are an impetus for the existence of the Tea Party. A second factor is the failure of our leaders assess the dire long-term consequences of their policies, legislation and entitlement programs. The Tea Party is comprised of many who do not believe that what they now see in Washington, Democrat or Republican, can resolve these self-inflicted problems that we no longer, but better, take seriously.