Thursday, November 19, 2009

Is You Is or Is You Ism

About twenty years ago, I was sweeping the parking lot of the McDonald's where I worked when this car that had just been in drive-thru pulled up along side me. The driver lowered his car window and, in a pissed-off voice, said to me, "I thought we were supposed to be different from the communist countries!"

"Huh?" was my honest, heartfelt reply.

"I thought we were supposed to have choices in this country. That's why we're supposed to be so much better than the communists."

This was right after the Berlin Wall fell. It didn't literally fall, but East Berliners were now allowed to visit West Berlin without getting their heads blown off. Meanwhile, other Eastern Europeans countries like Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary were peacefully replacing their communist leaders with capitalistic democrats. Or democratic capitalists. Take your pick. And the whole thing had been set in motion by the sphere-influential leader of the U.S.S.R., Mr. Glasnost himself, Mikhail Gorbachev. As a result, there was a lot in the U.S. media about how the formally enslaved peoples of the Iron Curtain countries would now have more choices in their lives.

What kinds of choices? Well, they could now choose their own leaders. And they could now read anything they wanted. They could now criticize the government if they wanted. And they could write and paint and draw and compose and sculpt and direct and perform whatever they wanted without fear of being sent to some gulag in Siberia.

But that wasn't the kind of choice the guy in the McDonald's parking lot had in mind.

"Sir," I said. "I really don't know what you're talking about."

"I tell you what I'm talking about! I wanted Hot Mustard sauce for my Chicken McNuggets, but the girl in drive-thru said they were all out. She tried to give me Sweet 'N Sour instead! What kind of choice is that?! This country is supposed be about choices. I might as well be in Russia!"

With that, he did an angry burn out of the McDonald's parking lot, leaving me standing there in a cloud of carbon monoxide.

Let's jump 20 years ahead (and 70 years back) to an ism other than communism, shall we?

As you may know, both the House and the Senate have produced their health care reform plans. Plans that, hopefully, promise universal coverage at affordable rates. For the last six months or so, the political Right have been comparing such efforts to Nazism. You remember Nazism, don't you? Adolph Hitler. Goosesteps. Swastikas. Book burnings. Tattooed numbers. Cattle Cars. Barbed wire. Showers. Zyklon B. Ovens. Crimes against humanity. None of which I believe is mentioned in the current health care bill. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) recently appeared at an anti-health reform teabag event, sharing the podium with some guy holding up pictures of the dead at Buchenwald. That's not in the health care bill, either.

The Nazis did offer free medical attention to twins, whether they needed it or not. Usually not. Again, not in the current health care bill.

Really, you shouldn't compare what happens in the U.S. or other western countries to what happened under communism or Nazism. It's like comparing apples and oranges.

Or Hot Mustard and Sweet 'N Sour.


  1. have to tell you, i'm really, really tired of fear-mongering. in all its forms and applications. and that's all i'm gonna say, 'cause otherwise, it's rant-city!

  2. There's always rant-suburbia. I hear it's a good place to raise the kids.

    Welcome, standing.

  3. I try to imagine how offensive this gigantic clusterfuck here in our nation must be to those who actually were victims or are descendants of victims of Hitler's atrocities.

    It's impossible.

    This I will say. It is beyond crude, heartless and downright ignorant to compare this country with Nazi Germany.

    Of course, the teabaggers (don't you love it that these idiots adopted that name without knowing what it means, LOL!) and the rabid fundies want to be bring about their own form of suppression and inhumanity to the masses, but that's another chapter in Cuckoo's Nest.


  4. Hill and standing, I should have commented on this 6 months ago when these comparisons were first being made, but they were so over the top I didn't think they'd last even six minutes. A couple more months of this, and they'll have gone on longer than the Battle of Britian.

    By the way, in the new health bill, insurance companies will no longer be able reject people with existing conditions. The Nazis, on the other hand, rejected people with such existing conditions a Jewishness, Gypsieness, homosexuality, etc.

  5. Kirk, this is such an example of really tight, beautiful writing that I was rather blown away by it Sunday when you posted it. I was struck again by your iron-fisted grasp of all things political and historical, ADDED to the writing talent. That political savvy and your ability to state things well is what made me stand up in Erin's blog that day and say, "YES. Kirk Jusko has it dead on." Now I will be straight and tell you that sometimes you are so brilliant about these things, I feel a little s-t-o-o-p-i-d and hesitant to comment. But I surely do learn from your writing and I thought I'd do well to say so. By the way, the time you refer to when Eastern Eurpoe was undergoing sweeping changes, I was pregnant, staying home and got to absorb much of it on TV as it happened. I have always enjoyed telling Amber about what was happening in the world at the approximate time she entered it - and what had gone before.

  6. Aw, Limes, you make me blush.

    Please don't hesitate leaving a comment. It's the only way I know I'm not talking to myself.

  7. By the way, Limes, if you want to know how brilliant I am, I just waisted an hour because I accidentally disabled a "cookie" and couldn't access my own blog! Obviously, I enabled it again, but how, I have no idea.

    The libraian is looking at me suspiciously.

  8. That's wasted, not waisted. Another example of my brilliance.

  9. You're making me roar! I just meant, Kirk, that I think you have a superior grasp of politics and history and you understand the melding of the two. I'm bright enough about most things and particularly brilliant about one or two things, but I don't have the deep understanding of those things that you do.

    Another comment I might make: We know about my former life as Norma Rae. So part of your story that pissed me off immediately was the jerk who thought it was appropriate to scream at the employees - any employees! I get twitchy when idiots abuse working people.

  10. Oh, that guy wasn't so bad, Limes. I just wish I hadn't got such a whiff of his car's exaust fumes. The McD manager found me an hour later crawling on all fours and barking like a dog.

  11. It's likely shortened your life expectancy.

  12. Bonjour,!
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  13. I'm seriously thinking about turning on the word verification.

  14. Yes, Kirk, that is a truly odd comment! Bonjour!

  15. I see the words Cialis and Viagra.

    Limes, when I said "dysfunction happens", that's NOT what I meant!

  16. Ha! I never would have thought so, Kirk. I promise you that's true.

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