Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Steroids and the Decade of Decline

In a few hundred years, students will learn about The Decade of Decline, the ten years when the United States lost its honor, wars, and money, and any hope of regaining these. It might go something like this:
The long descent began after an ancient Republican clan, Silverfootinmouth, instructed its minions to make sure that the youngest male Silverfootinmouth would ascend to the throne.

The public had voted for a rival clan's more gifted son, but advisers in the kingdom's court were loyal to the Silverfootinmouth family. Also, though they did not speak of this to Silverfootinmouth the Elder, many longtime court officials knew the youngest son to be a fool and were eager to install him as cover for their own nefarious ends. So it came to pass that four men (and one sad woman) loyal to Silverfootinmouth the Elder lied and said Gore, the rival, had not received votes in the province run by the eldest son of Silverfootinmouth, and that therefore the Silverfootinmouth family once more would rule the kingdom.

Gore knew of Silverfootinmouth's trickery, but was worried about civil war and conceded to avoid faction. Gore was a good, if somewhat naive, man and even in defeat tried to help his country. In a short period of time he was able to persuade the citizenry of their folly with fossil fuels, the source of energy that in time killed the civilization. Gore even won an important world prize for this. Alas, by then it was too late. Gore's country was already being consumed by the rising seas. The magic Prius and other advanced vehicles from the East arrived too late to save them. During one of the most tragic weeks, Hurricane Katrina washed out the levies, homes, and people from a once vibrant city called New Orleans, the underwater ruins about 20 miles southeast from the shores of Baton Rouge.

Soon after young Silverfootinmouth became King -- they called it President then, though the county tended to be run by people from a few families-- the country was attacked by men who were from a land where the Silverfootinmouth clan had old friends. It would be unthinkable for young Silverfootinmouth--also known as Shrub, the name given him by a wise woman from his village--to attack those people, but he would look weak if he did nothing.

Shrub's advisers, who had enemies in a different country that was near the country of the attackers, persuaded Shrub to invade that other country instead, even though they knew it had no role in the assault on their people. These advisers were better at pretending to be smart than young Silverfootinmouth, but in fact they also were very silly men. According to one story, which is very comical but still may be true, the main adviser to the King was trying to shoot a duck and instead shot his friend in the face.

The war against the people who never attacked the United States went very badly, costing the country its vast fortune and thousands of its people's lives. And yet the citizens still were afraid because the people who attacked them were not caught. Four years after Shrub first seized power, the people voted by a slim margin for him to continue as their leader.
The country's decline would become permanent. Shrub let the people who worked for him give away the kingdom's gold to their rich friends who ran the banks. The bankers then lent the money to poor people and charged them high rates of interest. It was really fun for while because the bankers were able to make money from lending the government's money and the poor people were able to spend the money, but eventually the bankers ran out of gold and the poor people couldn't repay the loans.

Once there was no more money, Shrub and the politicians for the poor people were very sad and worried, until they realized that money DOES grow on trees and they could just print more of it. The people were all very happy when they learned that the government was going to be sending money to them.

Most narratives of the Ten Year Decline might stop at this point, because the ending might appear self-evident. But just as today, there may be an inquiring student, needing a bit more detail to understand the era's follies. Why didn't the other politicians, called Democrats, do something?

Seated under tents by the dozens because earlier generations decided to privatize education and because the drought in North America had killed all the trees, the students might listen to a wise teacher's chestnut anecdote:

U.S. soldiers were killing themselves in foreign lands, families were being thrown out of their homes, and government agents had kidnapped men in orange suits and were suffocating them with wet towels on an island that disappeared after the 23 Year Rain.

The Senators were in despair. Overwhelmed by the country's actual problems, they agreed amongst themselves to focus on the difficulties faced by their professional athletes.

This was one activity that seemed to make everybody happy. Senator Arlen Spector started this when he learned that a football team called The Patriots had cheated when they played the team from his state called The Eagles. (A worker for the Patriots had videotaped the secret code from The Eagles' coach to the quarterback.) Senator Spector was upset when he learned that the videotapes had been destroyed. He said this was as bad as the government destroying videotapes of shoving wet towels in people's mouths.

Some people complained and said that U.S. agents shoving wet towels in peoples mouths to suffocate them was torture and destroying evidence of this was worse than what the National Football League did, but no one listened to them.

Instead, encouraged by the example of Senator Spector's football investigation, Senate fans of baseball decided they could cheer up their constituents by holding hearings about whether a very famous baseball player had lied about taking drugs that would make his pitches harder for players to hit. The same day of the hearing King Shrub announced that the citizens would be receiving between $300 to $800.


zblace said...

fiction and retrospective look from the future sure seem like an interesting format for contemporary critique :)

Ryan/Aless said...

Very funny. And pointed. Reminds me somewhat of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. And people say reading fiction (literature in general; creative writing in general; art in general) is a waste of time. I wonder why?

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