My secret is herein revealed — I’m an old sportswriter who has been playing the same game for nigh on half a century.
In this Internet incarnation, my subject matter has changed considerably, though the general purpose of my writing really has not. It has always been my intention to get people to reflect on the folly of the their own behavior, and these are lessons that can always be drawn against any background.
My first bylined newspaper story hit the streets in 1957. It was about my grammar school baseball team. Not so ironic that this my latest effort should be partly about the same game, beloved baseball, which I once, in my eagerly optimistic youth, regarded as a ritual of cosmic significance.
Now, at a time when shuffleboard would probably be the more appropriate game for me, I realize that baseball may not be the Zen-like avenue of transcendence I once imagined it to be, but it nevertheless is an appropriate sociological barometer of this pathetic hoax that is American popular culture.
So I thought when I watched canonized slugger Mark McGwire testify recently before a Congressional panel investigating the use of steroid drugs in professional baseball. His voice crackled. Tears welled in the corners his eyes. It soon became obvious that here was a man who had reaped the highest adulation of the unwashed masses and now was about to commit the public suicide of his glorious reputation.
“Based on what my lawyer tells me, I cannot talk about my past history,” McGwire told the puzzled committee. Rep. Charles Lewis asked for a clarification. “Does this mean you’re taking the Fifth?” the Congressman asked. McGwire squirmed in his seat. His squeezed throat quested for air as he uncomfortably nodded his assent … and watched his lifetime achievements evaporate in a puff of guilt-ridden smoke.
The refusal to answer meant the great slugger had cheated and couldn’t talk about it. He had used chemical substances to improve his physical performance, which helped him break baseball’s most hallowed record, the single season home run mark.
It was perhaps the most shattering moment in baseball history, equaled only by hit king Pete Rose’s lifetime ban for gambling and the 1919 Black Sox scandal, after which eight players were banned for life for fixing the World Series.
But McGwire’s case, devastating as it was to his own previously hallowed reputation, was even more ominous in the future revelations it foreshadowed — specifically, the implication of fellow slugger Barry Bonds in the same seamy and dishonest practice of boosting one’s performance with drugs. And with the future of Bonds, a seven-time most valuable player and the dominant icon in the game today, soon expected to take a similar turn to the bleak, McGwire’s silent self-destruction seemed to augur the impending destruction of America’s national pastime itself.
Another nail in the coffin of a contrived and superficial culture.
In my mind, I tried to contemplate a comparative demoralization in the history of American culture, and all I could come up with was when U.S. troops had to bail out of Saigon by helicopter definitely with their tails between their legs.
Egotistical America had finally lost a war, and Americans didn’t know what to make of it. It turned out we didn’t learn our lesson.
Of course, comparing the relatively trivial issue of an ultimately meaningless form of entertainment to a major conflagration in which almost four million people lost their lives is a dubious example. But it’s safe to say that a larger number of Americans care about baseball than care about the lives of innocent foreigners its Army arbitrarily snuffs out.
So in the sense of the debauched and misplaced American social focus, the two events actually are comparable.
But the collective American psyche is not likely learn the lesson in this new baseball tragedy, either.
That lesson would be that cheating and not competing fairly always catches up to the cheater, even if the scam undertaken seems undetectable at the outset of the attempt.
The comparison to the new fascist American government storming around the world and obliterating all who oppose is an obvious similarity. We all may only pray that this Pentagon adventurism comes to a similarly ignominious end.
But I wanted to linger a little longer on the entertainment level in an attempt to show how robotized and thoughtless America has become, because when you talk politics these days, most Americans just shut down and polarize along the border between compassionate consciousness and mindless dogma.
Toronto Sun columnist Eric Margolis used one of my favorite examples the other day to demonstrate the decline of American awareness (and intelligence and compassion) when he wrote about the ’60s movie “Seven Days in May,” which was based on a bestselling novel written around the time of the Cuban missile crisis and worldwide fears of a nuclear war.
In that black-and-white classic, Burt Lancaster plays the demonic General Scott, a right-wing lunatic who is frustrated by the humane agenda of a liberal president, played by Frederic March. Kirk Douglas plays the role of the hero, a subordinate of the demented general who alerts the well-meaning president about the coup that is about to take place, and the plot is foiled.
But the salient feature of the movie is Lancaster’s (the general’s) behavior. He is a classic Patriot, focused on enemies and without compassion or understanding. Even more astounding from the perspective of forty years later is that he sounds exactly like our current criminal president, George W. Bush.
In the early 1960s, Lancaster’s role was excoriated by both reviewers and audiences for its over-the-top portrayal of an obviously compulsive maniac. Yet today, President Bush’s virtually identical performance is depicted by today’s prostituted media as a legitimate leader with valid religious convictions.
I find this observation to be a perfect description of the difference between the conscious culture of the 1960s and the comatose culture of the first decade of the 21st century, as well as a confirmation of the trend in American movies that principled heroism is no longer a trait to be practiced.
Through its movies, America has descended into a sewer of viciousness.
Speculating on how this pathological and regrettable degeneration of American culture occurred leads inevitably to the question of who owns both the media and the educational processes that led to this diminution of consciousness, this decommissioning of traditional moral boundaries, this death of the American good guy.
Who owns the process that has destroyed the America we hoped to love, the America for whom we now feel only contempt, mistrust and fear? Do you care enough about the answer to find out, or are you OK with the idea that both your livelihood and your life are about to be destroyed? Let me know your answer at some later date, if you care enough to answer at all.
And let me sketch just one more example of the degeneration of American culture, this drug-induced deflation of a once-honest populace, this bogus, superficial patriotism that has been converted by insincere jingoism into a murderous, emotionalism fascism that now threatens to turn the whole planet into a radioactive cinder.
It’s the music. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s dead.
As popular culture of the Sixties mobilized to oppose the senseless war in Vietnam, numerous popular artists earned vast followings by standing up to the government’s sadistic slaughter of those who were called “gooks.”
Recently, I listened one of the many antiwar mantras that dominated the airwaves in about 1970. “Ohio,” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, was about the National Guard murders of four antiwar students at Kent State.
“Tin soldiers and Nixon coming.
We’re finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming.
Four dead in Ohio.
Gotta get down to it.
Soldiers are cutting us down.
Shoulda been done long ago.
What if you knew her
and found her dead on the ground?
How can you run when you know?”
When I listened to this shortly after September 11, 2001, it seemed pretty inconsequential compared to what had just happened? But at least the attempt was there, the attempt to inform the world that something was wrong.
What I want to know is this?
Where are the songs about the World Trade Center, the greatest crime in American history, in which our own government staged a fake terrorist attack and killed three thousand of our own citizens?
Not a peep on the radio. After three years, not even a single syllable.
Where are the songs about Fallujah that could rival Gil Scot-Heron’s great classic “Johannesburg,” a riveting lament about the black fight for freedom against the oppression in South Africa?
Fallujah. The place braindead American zombies gunned down old people and children to the smiles of their superiors, and American newspapers covered it up. Covered up the gas, covered up the napalm, the destruction of hospitals, the prevention of medical care, then covered up the soldiers going back in and destroying the evidence that they used gas and napalm, and God knows what else.
What I want to say is this?
WHERE’S THE FUCKING SONG, ASSHOLE?!
And I’d like to address that question to every musician in America, in the world. I’d especially like to ask it of so-called legendary icons like Bruce Springsteen and Bonnie Raitt, Bob Dylan (you nihilistic twit!) and Eric Clapton (you simpering wimp!), Eminem (don’t fall for that Democratic crap) and Doctor Dre (abandon your mansion and step up now!).
The whole music scene, and all the retards who think they’re cool by following it, are nothing but robotic moral cowards who have abdicated their responsibility to the world. Who will have the courage to step forward, like all these brave folks in the 9/11 skeptics movement have done?
And when you try to escape into the pleasing triviality of sports, and confront the reality that baseball’s two greatest sluggers have both cheated to achieve their accomplishments, you should get some depressing inkling that the whole enterprise is a lie meant to distract you from the even more unpleasant fact that your government, through its controlled media apparatus, has stolen your life, fed you with falsehoods, and deliberately murdered your children with poisoned food, toxic drugs, and phony wars.
So I think it’s time you checked the scoreboard, and find out what the score really is.
America is dead, and the international bankers are getting ready to pick its carcass. Anybody still walking around is now a willing zombie waving that flag of mass murder and injustice, the Stars and Stripes.
But hey, it’s the perfect cloth to drape over your coffin, although no photographs will be allowed. And hey, what’s that sound, everybody look what’s going round … due to the condition of both the corpse and the culture, why, that sound is the out-of-control ticking of a Geiger counter, which may be the real song about Fallujah that nobody apparently has the guts to write.