TARP, Octuplets and the Triumph of the Mediocre

American culture, having had its higher ambitions whittled down most notably during the Bush years, perpetuates messages which teach us that it's okay, indeed preferable, to be downright mediocre.
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(Caution: Untethered Metaphor Alert. The next paragraphs contain several labored, unrestrained attempts at colorful commentary.)

Even though George Bush is currently running a small dance academy in Crawford (see "Tango Terrorismo" HuffPo 8/5/07), his legacy of mediocrity lives on.

After the initial jaw drop upon hearing that an amount of money verging on a trillion dollars was basically thrown out of a getaway car and into the cupped hands of various corporations, banks and private plutocracies with nary a word of caution, the feeling in the country is one of liberation. Even though we voted for "change" there is still a temptation to continue in this unrestrained vein. Americans prefer "can do" to years of depressing Bush "can don't" and breaking the trillion barrier was another example of classic American come-back-from-behind push the envelope be the best, the greatest, the biggest spirit. And it was okay. It actually felt liberating, downright -- shall we say --stimulative? Shit, let's go for zillion! Bazillion! Yee hah!

Having lived through a decade or so in which quaint terms like "beheading", "torture" and "talent show" have regained purchase in common discourse, expressions which should be relegated to historical texts taught to no children left behind, it is no longer surprising to find that the only recently passed Bush era will have spawned living, breathing embodiments walking among us today. American culture, having had its higher ambitions whittled down most notably during those years to appeal to the supposed tastes of the profligate and thick browed herd doesn't extol symphonies but Sim phonies, perpetuating messages which teach us that it's okay, indeed preferable, to be downright mediocre. A sense of ethics, morality, civility and actual ability serve only to slow the flow of cash. Away with ethics, morality, civility and actual ability. Bring on the candy and the freaks.

Between the menacing acronym TARP and the gag-inducing Nadya Suleman AKA Octopussy, the latest credulity-straining events to occupy both ends of the cultural spectrum, we are still living in an Ian Fleming carny world and the always trusty media, ready to amass an unthinking crowd of agreeable consumers, barfs the data like a barker all over our passive punims.

In both media obsessed cases, the public is simultaneously praised and insulted, informed yet denied, given only so much info to induce either relief or umbrage but little else. As when, after having had the thrift scared out of us, no one took a moment to ask the where, how, why, who or WTF about all that dough spent to right the listing economy, we now have the sick spectacle of Our Lady of the Litter, the living embodiment of all the Right Wing's pompous faux-religious blather about conservative family values and the sanctity of life. You preached it, you got it. There she is: Ms. America, warped self-image, mutated feminism, misplaced values and all. The current distraction from relevance is courtesy of the folks who brought you the Bush Doctrine, championed deregulation and pursued war for oil. And still no real questions are being asked, no real consequences for such bad, bad, bad behavior. It's enough to make you buy a new iPhone.

This is the world that Bush bequeathed to us, just as deformed babies were the fruits of atomic testing near populated atolls; ethics, civility, common sense and the nearly one trillion TARP dollars floating like so many soap bubbles popping and leaving no trace. Add to that the media repackaging inane sludge into meringue and sending it out digitally coast to coast and you have a continuation of Bush's doctrine of mediocrity and mendacity, one in which despite the best efforts, will likely linger even in the comforting embrace of change and hope.

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