Reader, you are cowed. Your head is bowed. Your legs quiver and shake like reeds in the wind. And your eyes turn shifty over your shoulder with every halting step. Citizen of the United States of America, you are no longer invincible. Bearded jihadis stalk you, ululating in the night; stocky, brown-skinned individuals mount a slow and steady assault on your job security; the 1.7-billion-strong Red Chinese Menace grows fatter, lazier and more automobile-dependent. In 10 years’ time they will surpass America in every metric of the human development index. They’ve already tied us in the number of Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises they have.
They are everywhere. More join their ranks with each passing day. You may even be one yourself. They scrub zinc countertops and wax windowpanes; they mow suburban lawns to a fine crop; they take your order at the register and then catalyze the industrial chemical reaction that transforms a pulp of corn flour and rotting cabbage leaves into a Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme.
The Republican Party: a white picket fence; mom in the kitchen; an apple pie cooling on the open windowpane. Or: a barbed-wire fence; a Ford F-150 pickup truck with swinging brass testicles; a russet-faced man in a trucker hat sitting in front of the livestock feedstore who bends to spit Skoal-sodden saliva into a rusting Folgers can.
Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to step down from the helm of the Holy See at the end of this month has puzzled many. Indeed, no pope had resigned since the antipope-and-bubonic-plague-afflicted 15th century. The pontiff’s Feb. 11 announcement came as a shock even to his own spokesman.
Have you ever made a decision that was clearly the wrong course of action in the given circumstance so that you might avoid confrontation and conform to an immediate social expectation? Like, say, attended a Dave Matthews Band performance with your fraternity brothers? Bowed to your parents and taken monastic vows as a member of a small Catholic order living a flagellant existence on a parched Ligurian hillside? Acceded to a freezing homeless person’s request that he take a nap in the trunk of your car while you run into New Seasons?
Since the moment Barack Obama assumed the office of president of the United States in 2009, our nation’s leading proponents of objective political analysis have heralded the imminent arrival of a dystopian nightmare: a future of socialized medicine, a job-killing eco-fascist bureaucracy and—worse!—sprawling, strangling webs of high-speed interurban railways.
The lean, fit man sits contritely and answers the questions put to him by a poised, buxom woman. We perceive that the man is contrite because of the slackness of his jaw and the limpness of his shoulders as he responds to the woman’s every penetrating query with halting words of self-effacement.