Imagine birthdays, Valentine's Day, special occasions of all kinds without the Post Office's stamp of approval and thumbs-up. Imagine America without Post Offices in its histories and small towns. More to the point, imagine playing Post Office with a new, for-profit corporation: Imagine having to kiss up to and keep any new avocational CEO stocked up with vacation homes, wingtips, private jets.
The right-wing crazies want to bring down this venerable public institution too, bringing on a trick-opening for for-profit delivery -- some say by virtually engineering a downfall by triggering a financial crisis, just to get a foot in the door. It's enough to make any American go postal, enough to make our first Postmaster General for 1775, Benjamin Franklin, twirl in his grave.
Both sides showed up on time, armed to the teeth with favorite weapons. The Brains showed up early, skittish and unsure of themselves, legions of sparking, crackling facts and computer records at their fingertips, electrified as if by lightning. The Brawns marched in at the top of the hour, as agreed and decreed, clad in full-bore, end-of-the-world riot and combat gear -- all in black, befitting the solemn, sober, somber occasion -- and methodically beat The Brains into oblivion, no battling back, then, simply said, took over the world.
Or, how about this one? Christian right-wingers are not from around here, not from our home planet, but have been shipped in and placed here as part of a test to see if any sane humanoids could or would survive or even thrive in the midst of such an indelibly foul and alien race.
Kurt Vonnegut left the planet five years ago today. If you noticed his absence then, surely you also know by how much the world has not been the same since. Some things, however, have not changed: Kurt found the world humorous, hapless, sadly lacking -- a pratfall away from cheating death or a breath from unimaginable brilliance. Or both, maybe simultaneously. He has said, "Human beings might as well look for diamond tiaras in the gutter as for rewards and punishments that were fair."
He was the author of 14 novels, 5 scripts, 5 short story collections, and 5 books of essays, and countless drawings, all filled with effervescent, irreverent, self-fluorescing Vonnegutian wit and crinkled-smile insights. "Cat's Cradle" was one such book, in which Kurt created a fanciful and poetic religion, Bokononism -- along with the end of the world, of course. The new religion gently explained the way of things, in rhyming "calypsos," using rare pairings of wry humor plied with the harsh truth:
The whole business of heroes and fame routinely gets tangled up, mangled and strangled by modern life, interest levels somehow high in vapid and empty people created for the times, people famous only for being famous, their lively, spontaneous actions for renown all baled up with (and sometimes bailed out by) well-rehearsed legal dance-steps, or the fancy footwork of plain-deadly infamy.
In our modern world, we often confuse price and value, among so many other things. That is marketing's tales-and-sales mission, and marketing always lands its beachheads well-prepared.
Contrast today's fleeting flights of fame, awards for spurious and curious being, against those of the world's geniuses of the past who invented and gave back to the world so incredibly much.
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