03 Februar 2007

Our New Rope

"The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them." -- V.I. Lenin

Sure enough, here at home we are inexorably whittling away at the very freedom that our military has sworn an oath to defend--but this erosion has nothing to do with the Patriot Act, inconvenience at the airport, monitoring the Internet and phone calls. All that stuff is old hat.

No, as it turns out, once again the prissy biddies of the loony left are feverishly working to destroy our basic freedoms (for our own good, of course). By doing so they drive people like me back into the arms of the Republicans. Those of you who have read these posts have probably sensed that I consider myself a moderate liberal. I believe in regulation of industry for the public interest, good-faith efforts to protect the environment, a reasonably progressive tax system that spares the poor, public transportation, and so forth. But I also cherish my right, and, yes, it is a right, to go plinking with my guns (as long as I am not a felon), keep the government's nose OUT of my religion and diet, buy alcohol and to come and go hither and thither as I see fit. Back in 1866, Judge Gideon J. Tucker commented, "No man's life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session." For the first time in my life, I am truly afraid of what the government is doing--and it has nothing to do with the Patriot Act, global warming, immigration, oil, etc. Kids' stuff, all that. No, the real threat to my freedom comes from Sacramento, where there sits the best legislature lunatics can buy. Turns out that Jello Biafra had it right back in the 1980s. Some--just some--of the insanity that is comin' down the pike, folks.

1. A law banning spanking.

Your kids will meditate in school
Your kids will meditate in school!

2. A law banning incandescent (i.e., normal, yellow, comfortingly glowing) light bulbs, forcing us to install florescents. Two days after reading about this, I am still in a state of shock; all the more so, given that this little bit of do-gooder's fascism--for he will certainly need his own little Gestapo to enforce it--has been proposed by a Jewish Assemblyman, Lloyd Levine. Or perhaps more fittingly, Heinrich Himmler Levine.

Close your eyes, can't happen here
Big Bro' on white horse is near
The hippies won't come back you say
Mellow out or you will pay
Mellow out or you will pay!

3. A law requiring voter registration as a prerequisite to graduating from high school (presumably, whether the student can actually read or not).

Now it's [past 2004]
Knock-knock at your front door
It's the suede/denim secret police
They have come for your uncool niece!

4. A law banning paté fois gras (oh, that ship has already sailed).

Zen fascists will control you
100% natural
You will jog for the master race
And always wear the happy face

And, sure enough, how have my friends and family responded when I mentioned these matters? "It can't happen." "Don't worry, it won't get that far." "It'll get killed in committee." "It's just attention-grabbing, for the publicity." "It will blow over." In other words, "Es ist nie so heiss gegessen, wie es gekocht wird." (It's never eaten as hot as it's cooked.) Exactly what they were saying in 1933 and 1934. The lunatics have once again escaped and taken over the asylum. I can put up with a lot of things. Higher taxes, crowded roads, wobbly health care, fraud, corruption, an incompetent judiciary--BFD. But now we are faced with serious incursions on our private lives. Why stop here? After all, we could save far more electricity by banning private homes altogether! What sort of social conscience does anyone have who insists on living in a wooden box with 2,000 square feet of living space, anyway? Hey, Mr. Levine, why not simply concentrate us in tidy little barracks, with ultra-effecient florescent lights, heating that maxes out at 60, no, 55 degrees, and nice long rows of ergonomic bunks, all the better for preserving our backs to perform nice arduous "service to the community" 5 hours a day? Why bother banning spanking? Let's just remove our youth from the baleful influence of parents altogether. Right after birth would be best--no sense in letting mothers form any messy attachments.

It boggles the mind. Are we just succumbing to collective insanity? Liberals, liberals. . .No. This isn't about liberalism. FDR was a liberal--who owned a dog and smoked cigarettes. The Four Freedoms, Truman, the GI bill--what was it all about? Giving the average working stiff a shot at a decent job, so he could own his own house, and, yes, barbecue and drink beer in peace while raising his children and practicing religion as he saw fit. Precisely the opposite of regimentation, which is the business my generation seems to have gotten into. God help us all.


Twenty-five some-odd years ago, my friends and I used to buy old MRE's at a military surplus store. They were very handy, albeit in a tenderfoot sort of way, for our camping-and-mayhem excursions in the Mojave desert. Eating MRE's, to our pubescent Reagan-era minds, had a touch of glamour. By partaking of the same food our troops do, we partook in a secular act of Communion with what Gustav Hasford called the "phony tough and the crazy brave." Back in the days when the main threat came from what turned out to be a quite civilized "Evil Empire," fiddling around with MRE's seemed rather quaint, but today, with a very real and serious war going on, they are no laughing matter. So when a Marine friend of mine "souvenired" me a whole carton of MRE's the other day, I was most interested to find what our men and women are eating.

According to my friend, each package costs about $12 at a surplus store. That seemed shocking--we used to pay about $1.50. The price increase is deceptive, however, because today's MRE bears about as much resemblance to their 1980s forebears as the latter did to the C rations issued during World War II and the Viet Nam war. For starters, the offerings are more eclectic than ever: the packet before me reads "Menu No. 23 Chicken with Cavatelli." I've eaten in quite a few elegant Italian restaurants in my day, but at this moment I confess that I don't know what Cavatelli is. More astounding than this whiff of haute cuisine is the packet's size--it holds one of the older rectangular MRE's (the kind we used to buy, a plastic package encased in cardboard about the size of one of the 1980s CD wrappers), plus a very large assortment of goodies. Please note, by enumerating these items I am NOT attempting to belittle or critize the military, which I have always admired deeply and still do. Nothing is too good for our people over there. The military is America in its purest form. So this cataloging affords insight into the peculiar combination of ingenuity, toughness, softness, luxuriousness and thoroughness that comprises the contemporary American character:

1. The main meal (noted above): "Breaded Chicken Breast Patty with Pasta Shells in Tomato Sauce with Rib Meat." 8 ounces. 280 calories, 100 fat-calories, 1000mg sodium (42% RDA), 105mg cholesterol (36% RDA).

2. Spoon, plastic, olive-colored.

3. 1 clear plastic pouch containing a) two chiclets; b) a 1/8 oz. glass bottle of Tabasco sauce (not generic); c) a tightly folded paper napkin; d) a moist towlette; e) a packet of Domino sugar (not generic); f) an olive-drab matchbook "designed especially for damp climates" (Vietnam-era procurement guidelines, perhaps); g) one packet of single-serving Taster's Choice Instant Coffee; h) a 4-gramme packet of iodized salt; i) a 4-gramme packet of "creamer, non-dairy, dry."

4. One 34-gramme plastic package of "Beverage Base, Powder Orange, Type II Fortification D. 130 calories, 0 fat-calories, 20mg sodium (1% RDA), 0 cholesterol.

5. Wheat Snack Bread, 1 piece, 57 grams. 170 calories, 40 fat-calories, 120mg sodium (5% RDA), 0 cholesterol.

6. One Ziploc-type "Hot Beverage Bag," warning the user that "To avoid a burn, beverage heating time should not exceed 6 minutes. Use caution when handling HOT beverage bag." Detailed instructions for filling the bag with water and adding beverage powder to "appropriate fill line." Serving can be 6, 8, or 12 ounces.

7. A small pouch, about the size of an airplane vomit bag, containing heating chemicals. Basically today's version of Sterno. Instructions--and I am not making this up--tell the user to lay the opened bag on a "Rock or Something."

8. One rather large Fig Bar, 2 ounces. 200 calories, 30 fat calories, 0 cholesterol, 220mg of sodium (9%). Doesn't quite taste like a Fig Newton--slightly drier and less sweet, a bit crunchier, too--but still quite enjoyable, no strange or chemically taste. Better than some generics I've bought in the past. Completely fresh.

10. Cheese Spread with Bacon (fortified). "Knead package before opening." 1.5 oz. This one's the real calorie-delivery system: 180 calories; 150 fat-calories (26% RDA, but zero trans-fats!); 360 mg sodium (15% RDA); 25 mg cholesterol (8% RDA). I'm going to pass on this one for now.

Compared to what the soldiers of earlier eras had, all this probably seems luxurious. But that does not change the fact that war is hell. I am fully confident that no soldier of the past would suggest that today's military has it easy. And this food is really quite decent. It is wonderful that modern technology can palliate the horrors our people endure, but that alone doesn't justify putting them in harm's way in furtherance of misguided policy, nor does it excuse the failure to equip them with adequate armor and weaponry.