Once or twice, I’ve implied, on this blog, about the deep conservatism of the car show crowd.
I stand by my intuition and observation, as shown by this Romney bumper sticker incongruously and sloppily stuck on the back of a 1956 Ford at Bob’s in Burbank last Friday evening.
Car people are particular. Engines are buffed, vacuumed and wiped flawless with glass cleaner. A piece of dust under a foot pedal is upsetting. So it must be quite a matter of some significance to deface an exquisitely perfect 1956 Ford bumper with a taped on Romney sticker.
Car shows are also about nostalgia. They represent what we imagine and love about the past, a past that never ages or grows old, whose icons and places, Elvis and Ike, Van Nuys Boulevard and the Hollywood Freeway were once young, promising and fresh.
The machines of 50 or 60 years ago had style, they were adventurous in design and innovation, capable of exciting and seducing us, in a way that new cars do not. They ran fast, they took us to drive-in movies, to midnight picnics on the beach, up the road to hide and make out in the moonlit orange groves in the back of a convertible.
In the car show fantasy, nobody ever sat in traffic on a freeway and commuted to a dull job as an actuary in an insurance company. Everyone had a permanent erection and a pretty young thing next to them. And every night was Friday night.
Now the car show crowd is hot and heavy, excited and worked up over the next new marketing invention, Willard Mitt Romney.
31 years after Ronald Reagan took office, the car show crowd is again hoping that a reassuring old model will be inaugurated, a model whose exterior charms and surface good looks represent the best of what America can be, a model male whose wealth, beautiful children and blonde wife stand as proof of the veracity of our nation’s promise, a leader whose banal aphorisms and smooth clichés may soothe our rotted souls and whose lies and reversals masquerade as moderatism.
Like a new car, the new president promises good times, advertising his suitability for any family, his practical experience on the road, his durability, his proven assets, all dramatized in commercials, on stage, in front of an audience of millions. He is shiny, buffed and prosperous.
But there is one deep, dark pothole, on the road to Romney, which may cause him to lose his political goal.
If, by the intervention of Satan, Obama is re-elected, the car show crowd will grumble and groan. The old, red-nosed, white-haired men with their fold-out, blue, big cup chairs and plastic flags will still gather at Bob’s; but the talk, of taxes and debt, war and health care, the big issues, those will once again go underground in hibernation, for four more years, and the focus will shift back to 1955, 1962, 1969, 1972, a past that never dies, a young and eternal past which the old haunt like a prospector panning for gold in a dried up stream bed.
There is something going in Los Angeles right now called proposed redistricting and a dire warning flyer, from one of my neighbors, arrived on my doorstep this morning warning that if these new changes go through “Van Nuys will start at Victory Bl. and be lumped in with Panorama City, Pacoima and Arleta.” I was implored to show up for a meeting at the Walter Reed Middle School in Studio City on Thursday, February 9th to make my objections public.
I don’t personally know who wrote this flyer and I don’t know why it matters if Van Nuys is associated with communities north of here. If prostitution, gangs, garbage and fat, short women dressed in skintight black spandex have not lowered my property values yet, then I doubt that my new city council boundary will make much difference.
Have you been to the corner of Kester and Victory lately? It is not a pretty sight. McDonalds, at this location, is considered an upmarket restaurant.
And who are these haughty and snobby Van Nuysians who imagine that they belong in a district with Studio City and Sherman Oaks? The issues that matter to an 29-year-old single, white entertainment executive living in Franklin Canyon are quite different from a 29-year-old Salvadorean single mom supporting three children, two grandkids and two parents in a one-bedroom Victory Boulevard apartment.
The City Council is in business for one reason only: power. It is their job to insure that they have a job. We constituents only matter if our last name is Broad or Caruso.
I don’t care what district I am in because I can only control my quality of life as far as my front curb.
In Egypt, it seemed, at first, that the thousands who finally decided that they have had enough, were brought to their senses and onto their feet by Facebook and Twitter.
Oppressed, humiliated, tortured, spied on, forgotten; the ordinary Egyptian has no future to look forward to, no better life ahead, and only a vague sense that his individual life matters.
Over there, in the Middle East, Americans can see that a very small slice of the elite own everything, and that the vast majority of people cannot earn enough to even buy bread.
And, as Abraham Lincoln said, “You can fool some of the people some of the time, all of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time.”
We Americans have been living in fiction here too. For thirty or more years, it has been normal for every single industrialized section of the nation to close down. Abandoned, emptied, unused: these are the very engines of the economy that are no more.
So we took flight into frivolity: speculating in houses, throwing money into stocks, dancing on credit card debt. We celebrated our “post-industrial” lifestyle. Bad art and self-indulgent decadence occupied factories that once produced good machines and solid income.
And we imagined that the world was somehow being remade under a new virtual lodestar, hung in the Silicon Valley sky, guiding the world’s peoples into a smart, technical, open, free and intelligent self-rule and entrepreneurial cornucopia.
While Apple may introduce a new product every six months, human behavior only changes every million years. These are the eternal conditions of this planet: power, exploitation, greed, oppression, hunger, violence, war.
So the people of Egypt are marching and screaming, tearing down their government and demanding some justice.
And so the American people are robbed by private corporations and must live in a crumbling land where good jobs have gone away and only texting and the internet suffice as community.
If only six hundred people in Los Angeles protested for single-payer, public option health insurance, by standing on the 405 Freeway under the Wilshire Avenue Bridge, the news media would take notice, the government would react and conditions in real life might change.
I ask you:
Which country is poorer: Egypt or America?
The country with the most citizens willing to fight for a new and better day is the richer one.
Let the word go forth to a new generation:
Ask not what your government will do for you, but what you are willing to do for your country.
We must stand on the freeway. And it is not too late to act.
James Howard Kunstler writes provocative critiques about the decline of America, interpreted through the aesthetic ugliness of our strip malls, billboards, and vacuous suburban environment. He speculates about why young men, facing meaningless work and oppressive debt, might go mad in a nihilistic nation that has destroyed its own character and integrity:
“The rewards of entering the realm beyond college are paltry-to-miserable. Solitary cab rides to the mall. A burrito and a Big Gulp. Later, back home, an hour in the virtual company of the Kardashian sisters via the E-Network on your parents’ cable TV. Where are the initiations into manhood? (Try the channelized dry-wash, courtesy of the Barrio Blue Moon boyz.) I’m convinced that the reason video games and movies aimed at young males in America are devoted almost solely to fantasies about super-heroes and supernatural power (especially the power to kill) is because adolescent boys feel so impotent, so powerless, so unlike real men. The adults in this culture do not furnish any meaningful alternative scripts. That’s the market’s job, I guess.”
From THE NATION:
Adolph Reed Jr.
Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania
Adolph Reed Jr.
Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania
“In January 1996 I wrote the following about Barack Obama in my Village Voice column: “In Chicago, we’ve gotten a foretaste of the new breed of foundation-hatched black communitarian voices; one of them, a smooth Harvard lawyer with impeccable do-good credentials and vacuous-to-repressive neoliberal politics, has won a state senate seat on a base mainly in the liberal foundation and development worlds. His fundamentally bootstrap line was softened by a patina of the rhetoric of authentic community, talk about meeting in kitchens, small-scale solutions to social problems, and the predictable elevation of process over program–the point where identity politics converges with old-fashioned middle-class reform in favoring form over substance. I suspect that his ilk is the wave of the future in U.S. black politics.”
In 2007 Matt Taibbi described him as “an ingeniously crafted human cipher, a man without race, ideology, geographic allegiances, or, indeed, sharp edges of any kind. You can’t run against him on the issues because you can’t even find him on the ideological spectrum.”
In 2006 Ken Silverstein noted Obama’s deep financial industry connections. Glen Ford, Paul Street and many others have stressed those and other disturbing connections, including his penchant for supporting more conservative Democratic candidates against more liberal ones.
Obama indicated no later than the summer of 2007 that he intended, if elected, to extend the war in Afghanistan into Pakistan.
The only surprise about his presidency is how many ersatz leftists cling to the fiction that he’s anything other than a superficially articulate neoliberal Democrat in the Clinton mold and that his administration would act in any other way.”
In the aftermath of the glow over President Elect Obama’s win, the great national back pat and international acclaim for our nation, continues. WE ELECTED A DARK SKINNED MAN! Tears were pouring out, because our racist country could now point to that one example who surmounted the odds and would now take the oath of office in January 2009.
But as Shelby Steele points out in the Los Angeles Times, Obama has been masterful at putting forth an idealism that implies that a vote against him would be an act of cynicism. “His talent was to project an idealized vision of a post-racial America — and then to have that vision define political decency. Thus, a failure to support Obama politically implied a failure of decency.”
Steele argues that some white Americans would like to vote for a black person because it absolves them of the sin of racism. He writes that Obama’s racial identity, not his political views, form the strength of his new compact with the American people. “In fact, this was his only true political originality. On the level of public policy, he was quite unremarkable. His economics were the redistributive axioms of old-fashioned Keynesianism; his social thought was recycled Great Society. But all this policy boilerplate was freshened up — given an air of “change” — by the dreamy post-racial and post-ideological kitsch he dressed it in, “ Steele says.
But the larger issue, goes to the heart of how America sees itself in the world. We are convinced that our power is unlimited. That if we only put our minds and money to work, we can end terrorism, control global warming, make the Israelis and Palestinians love each other, and insure health care for everyone. True conservatives are wary of such great ambitions, but we have just come out of eight years of neo-conservatism with its doctrine of pre-emptive war and American exceptionalism.
When Obama takes office, the expectations will again be completely ridiculous. The world expects America to be different. Obama’s supporters think he will withdraw our troops from Iraq and begin to enact national health insurance. But by February 1, 2009 I expect the honeymoon will be over.
I voted for Obama. I like Obama. In fact, he made me cry several times during his election campaign. I’m glad he won.
But I am nauseated, tired and sick of hearing about how his melanin, and Kenyan father, somehow ushers in a new era of change.
Skin color as change is no change at all. It’s the same old racism.
This year, the voting was conducted at the Salvation Army, 14917 Victory Blvd. Van Nuys.
We awoke early, in the rain, and when we arrived at 6:45am there were already about 20 people ahead of us.
By 7:15 I was done voting.
I had brought my cheat sheet, a liberal guide to voting on the propositions and which obscure judges to vote for.
As usual, I had to marvel at the moronic method used to record my vote. I speak of that card that slides into a double red holder and the little, bitty inky pen which one must use to aim for the smallest of holes. I cannot imagine anyone older than 65 having the eyesight or dexterity to use this crude system, but that’s what we do here in California.
I don’t know that I “beat the crowds” by voting early. When I returned in the mid-afternoon, to snap this image, there were very few voters inside.
I attended an Obama fund raiser in Silver Lake this past weekend and shot these photos.