Riding Shotgun: Everyone into the Handbasket, Part I

If one of the monkeys with the typewriters ends up recreating Hamlet, can we nominate it for president?

I woke up this morning at 6 a.m. and couldn’t fall back asleep no matter how hard I tried. A full hour-and-a-half before I needed to be awake, no light coming through the windows, and I was staring at the ceiling. And this is what kept me up: if George W. Bush wins the 2004 presidential election, I will be spending the rest of my 20s with him as Commander in Chief. I’ll be turning 30 a few weeks after the 2008 vote, and that scares the ever-loving shit out of me.

Anxiety and despair over politics, and there’s still nine months to go before the general election. Fuck.

Is this what happened when Nixon was in office? Did people with half a brain and a quarter of a conscience wake up before dawn in the grips of a panic attack screaming to themselves, “Fuck! Fuck! What if he wins again? What if we’re stuck with the motherfucker for four more years? He’ll be foaming at the mouth by then. We’ll have to put him down with granddaddy’s shotgun!”

Nixon did win again, but they didn’t get him for the whole four years. I don’t think we’ll be lucky enough to get Bush out under threat of criminal charges, and he’s twice the monster Nixon ever was. Dick’s jerking off in his grave thinking about the signed, blank checks W. is being handed. Another year and I’ll be lucky the soul of my country isn’t bankrupt.

That’s right. I said it — my country. I’ll say it again, only louder this time. MY COUNTRY. It’s not just your country if you got your guy in the White House. And you can’t opt out and hide under a rock for four years muttering about disenfranchisement and election hijacking if your guy got hosed.

So, I’ll say it again. The United States of America is MY COUNTRY and I’m pissed at what George W. Bush is doing to it.

It’s like the fucker borrowed my car without asking and decided to take it off-roading. I drive an Elantra. You can’t off-road with that, you dumb shit, you’re gonna fuck up the undercarriage! And that is what Bush is doing. He’s fucking up the undercarriage of my country, leaving long scratches down the side of the American Dream and getting mud all over the Oval Office. And he’s battering the shocks to shit.

And if you don’t see the truth of that now-hammered-to-death metaphor, I don’t have time for you.

It used to be different. The last election, I could talk about things with some distance, some control, and some empathy for the other team. You like Bush? Well, you’re entitled to your opinion. Personally, I think he’s a little slow, if you know what I mean.

It’s different now. Three years and everything’s changed and I’m waking up with panic attacks at 6 a.m.

So, yeah. If you like what Bush has done and where he wants to go, and you believe what he believes in, and you’re planning on voting for another four more years of him, than maybe you haven’t been paying enough attention. Or maybe your mother mainlined meth while five months pregnant. Either one.

This man bombed Afghanistan, a Bronze Age country, back to the Stone Age in a futile, knee-jerk reaction to 9-11. This man blew his wad in Iraq, maxing out our reserves — guys who expected to spend this past year saving up some money to buy a first house and are now just hoping their Hummer doesn’t get hit with a shoulder-mounted rocket outside of Baghdad — in a professed attempt to stop Saddam Hussein from using his weapons of mass destruction and aiding Al Qaeda.

No WMDs and no Iraq connection, but we finally pulled Saddam out of his hidey-hole. Soon after, the casualty score topped 500 and if you thought grabbing Hussein was going to stop the killing, you’re one dumb, optimistic son of a bitch and you should be put out to pasture with other dumb, optimistic sons of bitches.

All of this in our “War on Terror.” All this to make America safe from terrorism — something that breeds in poverty and battle and feeds itself on hatred. Now America is despised by the world, free and not free alike, and all Bush has done is turn the incubator for terrorism on “super-crispy.” Color-coordinated fear dials, four hours to board an airplane, Ridge and Ashcroft and Cheney given carte blanche on the legal front, and do you feel any safer than, say … on September 12, 2001?

It doesn’t stop with the war. Last night was the State of the Union. He talks to the public like a man who considers “educated” to be an insult. He’ll make the schools better for our kids, but he don’t need any of that book-learning. He’s a shoot-from-the-hip, talk-from-the-heart average American Joe who doesn’t need an advanced degree or a lot of hemming and hawing to make domestic policy decisions that affect 250 million people.

Compassionate conservative. Compassion (noun): Sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it. Somebody get this man a dictionary.

Or a Bible. For a professed born-again Christian, he’s really shooting dice with that “Do unto others” rule. If that particular karmic wheel comes back around on him, there won’t be anything left but a red mist and a pair of smoking size 12s.

How did we let one of these nutjobs in there in the first place? You think that kind of deep spiritual connection to Christianity is going to give a president some focus, some clarity? These folks are expecting the Rapture any day now, and it’s real tough committing to laying new shingles on your roof if you expect the house to burn down tomorrow.

It’s easy to promise a man on the moon again by 2020 when you don’t expect the world to last that long. By then, Bush expects to be in a circle-jerk with Jesus and the Apostles looking down on a burning creation.

A man on the moon in 16 years. Yeah, let’s shoot for a full half-century gap before repeating one of mankind’s greatest accomplishments.

Shit. The State of the Union last night and the Iowa caucus the day before and maybe that’s why I’m at work two hours before I need to be, typing out the demons in hopes of not having this happen again.

I was disappointed Kerry came out on top in Iowa. I wanted Dean to prove his mettle, to get the momentum to push him through New Hampshire and Super Tuesday. I like Dean despite his faults. I like the way he sometimes stumbles over words, and the way he’s willing to let anger show through. I even like that crazy little smile. I’d follow that scary smirk to Judgement Day and back.

Kerry has a face that reminds me of the Nazis at the end of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” — all wide mouth and melting flesh and a plastic helmet-head that the flames won’t touch. He looks like someone didn’t turn off the liposuction machine. He’s a dead fish, bag of skin that looks like he barely has the stamina to make it through the weekend, much less the primaries. I hope any further anxiety dreams I have about this election don’t feature him. Stick that face in my subconscious and I’ll be needing a 500-watt nightlight for the rest of my life.

Let’s face it. I want Dean, but if Kerry gets the nod, I’ll vote for him. Edwards, Clark, whoever — I’ll cast my ballot. Maybe I won’t have the same little surge of joy as I would if it were Dean, but I’ll vote for a syphilitic hobo if he’s the alternative to Bush. As long as he doesn’t have a swastika tattooed on his tongue, he’s my man. And, hey … they can remove tattoos.

In Part II: We asked some folks from around the world what they thought of George W. and why America is no longer on their Christmas card list. Their answers and a long string of vulgarisms in the next Riding Shotgun.

Article © 2004 by Steve Spotswood