Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Pom-Pom Patriotism

That was weird. The weekend, that is. It’s called Labor Day but, from my humble snarky perspective, I didn’t see much by way of celebrating anything close to labor. I saw commerce, plenty of that. I saw faux-patriotism, oh-so-goddamn much of that. And I saw more consumption and more patriotism. America is one big fucking party, people!

Or maybe not. Here I come, the dark force of reality once again.

Let’s start with the parade I got totally snookered into participating in. Yeah, you read that right; the Snarkmaster was actually in a parade over the weekend. And it wasn’t just ANY parade, it was the Northfield Labor Day Parade, the granddaddy of Vermont Labor Day parades, right there under the shadows of Norwich University, home of tomorrow’s killers – er, I mean – soldiers.

My involvement in this little debacle is a long story and, of course, it involves beer and the late night consumption of, well, more beer. You see, Snarky Boy’s got a bit of drumming in his past. And my drumming prowess gets really exaggerated with each beer and each hour that passes on a Saturday night out. Hell, on some weekends, by midnight I could almost convince myself that I was Gene Krupa. Oops, that reference might have dated me a bit. Let me retract that last reference and, in its place, insert Dave Krusen (that would be the drummer for Pearl Jam, folks).

Well, Snarky Boy got to drinking and talking on Saturday night and the next thing I knew I was confronted by the absolute, immediate and necessary need for someone with rhythm to sit on a Labor Day float and thump a drum for a float that will remain unnamed. In a haze of happy thoughts and inflated rhythmic prowess, I accepted the offer and even promised to attend a most ridiculous “practice session” the next morning. And here, for honesty’s sake, were the same seven words bounding about my throbbing head while I was on my way to that rehearsal on Sunday: “What in the fuck am I doing now?”

Let’s get one thing straight right now: Snarky Boy doesn’t even go to parades, let alone participate in them. Modern parades in America – especially in this “time of war” – remind me a little too much of 1930s Germany for my tastes. It’s that uniformity of thought, worship of symbols and the near-delirious cheers for all-things-American that I find more than a bit uncomfortable, especially while bullets and bombs are flying in our nation’s name.

But to actually BE in a parade is a whole different ballgame. Well, that’s not really true, because it’s the same ballgame. So, let’s put it this way, to be in the parade is like being in the same game but only on steroids. Oh yeah. You’re really, really, really in the fucking game.

As you know by now, Snarky Boy finds himself in a lot of rather odd social situations. But let me say right now that parade participants are the most bizarre human beings this odd duck has ever – ever – come across. If the Titanic had cheerleaders, these folks would have volunteered for that duty. They’d have stood there with happy smiles and pom-poms, cheering the wonders of the ship as the son-of-a-bitch filled with icy water. Go team, go!

And the happiness of it all! Ah, the joy of obliviousness! The freedom of nothingness! The weightlessness of pure, simple thoughtlessness! The blessings of mental blankness! The ecstasy of the uniformity! The sheer fucking euphoria of the conformity! Shut up and wave those flags! Loose yourself in the pomposity of it all!

And, whatever you do, don’t even think about honoring the poor laboring bastards serving you the hot dog you’re still going to bitch about. Or the underclass kid sweating his ass off in a stupid desert thousands of miles away, wondering if he’s going to take a bullet for this nonsense or make it home to serve you your next hot dog. Don’t, don’t, don’t think these thoughts. Because this is a time to celebrate. To wave the flag. To cheer the (sinking) ship. To swim in the delightfully shallow waters of all things Democratic or Republican. It’s really that simply, you know? And, besides, it’s more of that us vs. them thing that really makes us special.

Nope. We’re not going to think about any of that on Labor Day. This is a celebration. And in modern America we have two times: non-celebration times when we don’t think about things that matter and celebration times when we don’t think about things that matter. So there. Deal with it. And stop thinking, you commie prick.

So, there I was, banging out a ridiculous rhythm for this unnamed float while the crowd literally went wild in a rather ill defined fit of patriotic joy. And it would seemingly never end. But since my float was among the few without a military theme, I could sense the disappointment in their applause. We were like the child who didn’t quite live up to their parent’s expectations. Oh sure, the applause was still there, but the disappointment was palpable.

I only got caught up in one spot of bother, too. It happened in one of those all-too-frequent occasions when the parade stops for too long while the goddamn Shriners take their time going on and on with their motor vehicles and silly hats. What, may I ask, do the Shriners do anyway? If I were an alien and forced to watch a parade and then guess their function (which is damn close to my reality anyway), I would guess this: they’re a bunch of happy-go-lucky drunk bastards out on furlough from the mental unit to entertain the rest of us out of our beliefs that this whole thing is all rather ridiculous. And I bet I’d be right. I mean, come on, what do a bunch of fat bastards riding go-carts over obnoxious SUVs have to do with helping children? The joke’s on you.

But that has nothing to do with my spot of bother. Not at all.

I got in a bit of a verbal pickle during one of those Shriner stops when I wasn’t drumming and, thus, thinking. And when I looked up and saw all the people waving their flags I couldn’t help thinking of the cowardice of it all. I mean, how much courage does it take to wave the American flag in America? We’re all fucking Americans, aren’t we? I think we all know where we live. It’s not like they need to remind us that Vermont is still a member of the United States of America. So where’s the courage in flaunting the flag?

So the Snarky Boy got in a whole heap of trouble by asking a rather brawny bunch of dimwit flag wavers this simple question: If you’re so proud of that flag, why don’t you wave it where it’s not safe to wave it? You know, some place like downtown Baghdad?

But before it got too ugly, the Shriners started moving again and all Snarky Boy got was a Coke can thrown my way and more than a few middle-finger salutes. Whatever.

I did my duty, though. I entertained the mindless masses. I visited the belly of the beast and left with a rather simple-minded assessment: We’re fucked.

I hope enjoyed the break. There’s nothing but joy ahead.