4-24-2006 America: Where did it go?

Some ill-tempered stooge in a four-banger threatened to kill me today. Iím not sure what brand of four-banger he was making like a demolition derby with because all automobiles look exactly the same to me these days. If thereís the slightest discernable difference between a Chevy and a Toyota--I canít see it. And with all of these rice-burners on the road, who the hell is driving up the price of oil anyway?

Yeah, so I was trying to exit the parking lot of a local Turkey Hill when Road Rage Ronnie decided that he should lead the parade out of there. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not an aggressive driver. Honestly, as far as driving is concerned, you wonít find anyone more courteous than myself. Most likely. Anyway, Ron decided he was going to back me off with a little game of parking lot chicken, and even though I made like a chicken, it was apparently much too late to satisfy whatever urge it is that makes him crazy on most days.

After our semi-near collision, he jammed his car into park, rolled down the passenger side window and made like Charles Manson with half a buzz on. He started with your all-time favorite, the irrepressible ďYou A-hole,Ē and then got down to brass tacks with the threats on my life. I did respond in kind, but it took me a second or two. Quite frankly, I was stunned by his needless antics. I can think of a ton of good reasons to kill someone, but not for trying to beat me out of the Turkey Hill parking lot. What the hell is wrong with people these days?

Better yet, what happened to that blissful country I grew up in? Where did it go? People didnít act like that when I was a kid, did they?

In the country in which I grew up, half of the families on the block didnít even own a car. The thing is, you didnít need one save for once-a-year vacations or the occasional trips to the state park for a bit of cooking out and swimming. And thatís where the relativeís cars came in. These days, every other family seems to have three cars, a van, an SUV and a collection of quads. And as a result, our roads are more crowded than a NASCAR track immediately following a restart.

We had no need for cars because we had mom-and-pop retail concerns on every corner, and a candy store in the middle of every block. We walked 200 yards to snag a bunch of pretzel rods at a penny a piece. Now, folks commute from the suburbs all the way to Wal-Mart to save a scant nickel on a pack of pretzel rods baked 3,000 miles from here. Must be me. When mom wanted ground beef, she handed me a buck and told me to head on down to the corner store. Vicks? Down to the corner pharmacy I went. The new Herb Albert LP? The record aisle at that same corner pharmacy did nicely. Step-dad wanted 3 packs of Lucky Strikes? Back to the corner store armed only with a single dollar.

And what of those 3 packs of Lucky Strikes? If I tried that stunt these days, some do-gooder would call some Ad Council ď1-800Ē number and make a fedrule case of it. Oh, the shame. He tried to have that little boy purchase cigarettes for him. Know what? Mind your own frickiní business. Trust me, worse things could happen to a little kid than to have him sneak one of the ole manís cigarettes. And what if he did anyway? Heíd likely puke.

Yeah, worse things could happen to a kid alright. Like having his parents working 7 jobs so they can afford the expensive nonsense they donít even need, when they could have been spending some quality time with him. Quality time is not rushing him to soccer practice at twice the speed limit and then cursing at the coach when Junior isnít instantly made into the star attraction. X-box is not quality time. MySpace.com is not quality time and neither is reality television. No, quality time is way down there on the list of important stuff to do after road rage, being a busy-body and keeping up with the mythical Jonesí.

When I was a kid, boys were boys. We played on retaining dams, water treatment plant whirlpools, the tracks the high-speed trains whizzing towards NYC used and in plenty of tall trees, tall grain silos and tall fire escapes. And not a single one of us got killed prematurely. These days, boys are expected to be effeminate, and when theyíre not, they get pumped with Ritalin until they take automatic weapons to school and slice-and-dice the junior class. Oh, but they understand the inherent dangers associated with trying to balance their weight while wobbling away on a single railroad track.

Way back when, people were much more courteous. People were somehow simpler. People were somewhat content. These days, people seem in a hurry, borderline agitated and always ready, if not hoping, to lash out at anything they deem to be the slightest provocation. In the Ď60s, they were the rarity. Nowadays, they are the accepted Ďnorm.

Race relations used to be a problem all those years ago, albeit, very quietly so. The black kids in the neighborhood tended to blend in and keep a low profile. I think they were waiting to see all of that hateful racism their parents had warned them about neatly displayed right before their eyes, but it rarely, if ever came about. If the neighborhood black kids could prove themselves on a baseball diamond, never touch another kidís Matchboxes without written permission and had enough nuts to play chicken on the tracks as the 5:15 sped towards Manhattan--they were in like flint. Unfortunately, Martin Luther King came to town one day and things were never quite the same. He told the blacks that they shouldnít settle for us hating them, but in the process, he made them hate us. As a white boy trying to find his way, I never could understand how I had wronged anyone. Turns out, I didnít, even though the Church of Martin said I did.

In that blissful country I remember, we had this thing called personal responsibility. If you snuck one of the ole manís smokes, you got beat with a leather belt and sent to bed. And everyone within earshot understood. If you robbed a bank, you got sent off to prison. And everyone understood. If you broke into someoneís house with a chainsaw, which most folks didnít, the cops would show up and shoot you through the eye until you got with the program. Everyone was good with that. And if you molested a nubile young girl, her father would likely kill you dead before anyone even thunk of calling the cops. And no one saw that as a problem. Well, that is, unless the bastard got to bleeding all over the place. Folks knew how to control themselves. They behaved. And we had a lot less cops as a direct result.

In the America of today, everything is somebody elseís fault. Whether youíre stealing a smoke, robbing a bank, taking a chainsaw to little Timmy or violating the under-aged girls of your choice, thereís no shortage of psycho-babbling clinically-trained apologists willing to testify on your behalf for a much more than nominal fee. And if blame is assigned, the ultimate in compassion should be exercised during your sentencing so as to make your life much better than that of those whoís youíve ruined, or snuffed out completely. Although, everything is someone elseís fault, unless you happen to be a white male, in which every malady known to man is your fault. All that horrible stuff that went on before you were born? Thatís your fault, boy. Admit it. Say what you want about what made America great, but if it werenít for the white boys that came from Europe, most of what we take for granted these days probably wouldnít have came to pass. No Slinky, no Pet Rocks and no Hula Hoops. Chew on that.

When I was a kid, the govmint was way over there in Washington, D.C., and not in our bedrooms, our diets and, for the most part, our wallets. It built useful things like Route 84, Saturn Vs, bridges that werenít supposed to collapse anytime soon and F-4s in which we could bomb the hell out of those silly-looking short folks sporting the cheap sandals in some far-off jungle called Vietnam. It did not mandate to my teachers what could and couldnít be taught in my grade school. It didnít get involved when we cold-cocked girls during dodge ball. And it didnít give a hoot how many momís Heather did or didnít have. The govmint left you alone, unless you were old enough to make claim of a draft card. We visited the govmint by driving to Washington, D.C. It didnít come and visit us unless some mom had to be told her kid turned up KIA in a rice paddy somewhere.

I honestly think most people wouldnít know what the heck to do without the fedrule govmint telling them what it should be. And even if they could figure out what they ought to be doing without any govmint assistance, theyíd still need it to tell me what I ought to be, or ought not be doing. Itís getting so that the ATF will be responding in full riot gear if some tired off-duty truck driver lights a Newport 100 in a sports bar, if McDonaldís accidentally prints 100 mini menus without the caloric content of a pickle slice listed on it, or if I happen to search one too many times for Web sites that are neutron bomb specific. Yet, they will not send those same ATF armor-clad thugs to the border when the inhabitants of an entire country decide to jump the border and hitchhike their way into my neighborhood. Sadly enough, Iím paying for their misplaced priorities.

And whatís up with the govmint deciding whatís moral and what ainít? Trust me, folks that do not park their heads up their asses on most days know whatís moral and what ainít. Is it moral to have same-sex partners adopting children? Take it from someone who struggled to grow up without a father--it ainít. Oh, but the almighty fedrule govmint directive number such-and-such says it is moral and anybody who says it ainít moral is going to have to answer to those aforementioned heavily-armed ATF storm troopers. If the feds decide butt-plugs are moral too, weíll have to install butt-plug changing stations right next to the baby-changing stations in the soon to be unisex rest rooms. Breast-feeding, cock-feeding, whatís the difference? Everything is now allowable by law, except being offended by the obvious lack of morals in our everyday lives. Iíll just keep working lots of overtime and continue to surrender 40% of my income so that the feds can institute all kinds of zany, half-baked nonsense on my dime that I find to be totally reprehensible. And if they try to arrest me for being insufferably intolerant, Iíll tell them Iím secretly pansexual and theyíll figure Iím a Democrat operative and leave me alone.

I dunno.

I guess itís getting too difficult to be courteous when you suspect that the next person youíre likely to encounter is a loud-mouthed, ill-mannered hammerhead just like yourself. The govmint used to allow us the freedom to figure out how best to live our own lives. And based on what I saw growing up, we had ourselves a rather civil existence--a civil country in which to live and prosper. Some slob wants to kill me because I dared to violate his personal space in the Turkey Hill lot. Soccer momís driving vans full of kids roll down their windows and shout expletive-laced rants about my bike needing to be on the sidewalk where it belongs. And when I do ride it on the sidewalk, some other slob comes real close to getting stomped, by me, after launching into an expletive-laced rant about my bike needing to be on the street where it belongs.

The folks on the corner want to brawl all of the time because we want, as per the law, their huge and aggressive dogs leashed when out of doors. I need a car alarm if I leave anything more valuable than a BIC lighter in the car. I need not one, but two dead-bolts on the doors. I need motion-sensor lights all over the place. I have to burn my name into holiday decorations and then pole-tie them to the front porch. I have to protect myself from identity theft.

Nothing get fixed. Rather, everything gets demagogued for political gain. I have to be non-emotive for fear of being called hateful, or a racist. I have to be politically correct at all times even though I know itís the language of pussies. I canít be judgmental or Iíll be judged very, very harshly. If I even admit in hushed tones that I like girls, someone might try to cash in by way of a sexual harassment lawsuit. Iím told I donít save enough of my earnings, meanwhile Iím being bombarded by non-stop lottery commercials on the video advertising box. I am not allowed to openly hate the folks who openly hate me. Diversity is the rage, even though those diverse folks keep looking down on people of my color. Iím a white male, so itís a foregone conclusion that Iím someone in dire need of being re-educated by those who know not of being educated.

Maybe folks ought to police their own acts rather than everybody elseís.

Trust me, Iím still enamored of America.

The thing is, I donít know where the hell it got to.

If you find it again, gimme a holler. Until then, much unlike 1967, Iím gonna lock the front and back doors and go to bed.


(If they donít happen to kill me first)

Posiedon remake?