In Defense of the Constitwotion

I’m tired. I spent last week with my students at camp, came home Saturday to some housework that needed to be done, and was the resident staff member at church on Sunday – which meant I preached Sunday morning and was on duty Sunday night. So forgive me if this comes off less eloquent than I hope.

I think it’s time we established that our country is no longer serviced by having only one Constitution. As things seem to swing ever farther to the extremes on both sides of the political spectrum, it would appear reasonable to do away with one central document whose carefully crafted language no longer meets our modern day sensibilities, and instead draft two new documents aimed towards the two dominant ideologies currently in power.

I propose we call them the Constitwotion. One for Red State folks. One for Blue State folks.

You can surmise the basic premises for each – Red State rules would be heavy on specific social behaviors deemed “harmful” and on lack of regulatory control for businesses. It wouldn’t quite be the old call of small government, but it would hew more towards the modern conservative ideal.

Blue State rules would lean towards a more egalitarian model where everyone contributes his or her fair share and everyone gets the exact same treatment. Everyone. Even the ivory tower types who typically get treated better than everyone else but who push for equality even as they surf the free WiFi at Starbucks on their iPads.

It shouldn’t take too long to draft these documents – chances are each party already has something similar in writing as part of the full-contact presidential campaign preparations. Now, instead of having to choose one vision of America or the other for ALL people, we can simply choose to live under one or the other as separate people. When you head into the primaries and you select the party for which you intend to vote, you’ll simultaneously be aligning yourself with the Constitwotion under which you want to live.

Clean. Simple. Neat.

Sure, there’ll be problems – for instance, most of the rich people who like tax breaks and the ability to shelter their income would be hard pressed to sign up for a Blue State Constitwotion that would tax their wealth and redistribute it to fair market systems, which would severely compromise the Blue State system of government (you gotta generate revenue or cut costs somewhere).

And those people who would happily choose to live under the Red State system might find it a little chafing to have their personal liberties closely monitored and “fine tuned” by the prevailing moral crisis of the moment.

But since we obviously can’t work together under one document for all, we need to embrace our destiny and get to work on these two separate but equal documents. Sure, it’s like the Civil War without guns, but hey – if you took away the messing fighting and dying and the whole inhumanity of slavery – the idea of two separate nations with two separate ideologies doesn’t sound too bad, does it?

It must not, because that seems to be what we’re pushing towards anyway.

Just a thought.

Learning from Hollywood: The Cautionary Tale of John Carter

Golly - given how lame this poster is, I don't understand how John Carter ended up as a flop...

The number crunchers for Walt Disney and its various movie subsidiaries announced today that their $250 million space epic, John Carter, will officially enter into the books as a bigger flop than Ishtar. All signs point to the n’er-do-well sci-fi dud to lose close to $200 million, once all factors are considered.

For some reason, exactly nobody was surprised.

I mean, how could a film based on source material that only the geekiest of sci-fi geeks know about, starring a humanoid that only the geekiest Friday Night Lights fans knew about, and featuring more computer animation than Finding Nemo and Wall*E put together, possibly go right?

(And for those who have no idea about the references in the above sentence, the correct answers are: Edgar Rice Burroughs The Mars Trilogy; Taylor Kitsch; and the past two films of John Carter‘s director, Andrew Stanton.)

So another can’t-miss, Hollywood blockbuster goes splat. What’s the big deal?

I think it’s a cautionary tale for all of us, especially this election year.

Bigger is not necessarily better. Not for government, not for spending, not for promises, and certainly not for number of doo-doo flinging attack ads. This might be the perfect year to sit back, play it small, and let the facts do the talking.

Except that even our facts get conflated. On both sides of the aisle. As does the rhetoric, hyperbole, name-calling, finger-pointing, blame-shifting, and other political campaign standards.

“Barak Obama is the worst president to ever hold the office! He should be pilloried from pillar to post and voted out of office by at least 50 bajillion votes! He wants to steal your money and give it to Cadillac-driving, no-education-having, crack-smoking, malt-liquor-drinking, illegally-immigrated, alternative-lifestyled, green-energy loving wonks who will bankrupt this country of money just like they bankrupted it of morals!”

“Republicans want to rip out your uterus and use it as a yo-yo! They want to tell you when you can have babies! They want to steal your money and give it away to big fat-cat businessmen who already have enough of their own money and drive gas-guzzling SUVS that emit invisible toxic fumes that kill baby rabbits! And, they can’t even decide which of their horrible cadre of unelectable candidates to trot out for certain November defeat!”

It’s special effects in place of story. Sizzle instead of steak. Show to hide the sham.

Now THIS is how you make a movie.

In short, it’s everything that critics have been saying about John Carter. The similarities are eerie: uncertain story; a seemingly endless budget; countless experts working on it; little sustained interest from the general public; breathless and sometimes convoluted advertising.

But perhaps the most painful similarity of all: characters you neither care about nor believe in.

Maybe the prescription for what ails John Carter is the same for what ails politics: a compelling cast of characters who, though flawed, fight for the good of all people in the midst of the apparent destruction of all civilized society. Despite their differences, they are united by the need for heroes, and with their combined strength beat back humankind’s destruction with perseverence, teamwork, and no concern for who takes the credit.

You want to know how to solve America’s political problems?

Be in theaters on May 4th.

Avengers assemble, indeed.

The Christmas Scrooge (It’s a Parody – Don’t Start Slamming Me…)

I mentioned on Facebook the other day that I heard the song “The Christmas Shoes” while driving into work, and I was in such a bad mood that I re-wrote the song with a pre-ghost-visited Ebenezer Scrooge as the narrator. It’s true that I did imagine how differently the song would go if Dickens’ famous miser and all-around butthole were the principle character, but I didn’t bother to actually write the song down. I figured it was just me being mean.

Turns out, a lot of people would like to hear my satirical spin on the song. I was surprised. It’s interesting: either people absolutely adore the song and hold it up as an example of all that’s right with Christmas, or they despise it on a level that approaches a moral imperative. Lyrically, I don’t dislike the song – it’s sweet in an only-at-Christmas sentimental way. What drives me to despair is how the Newsong version is sung. I’m just not fond of that guy’s voice.

Thus the drift in my imagination and the insertion of Scrooge.

Now, please know this is satire and not at all how I feel about Christmas or giving or charity. It’s just that the song (here’s a link if you’ve never heard it) is kind of begging for a twist.

So, without any further ado, here’s my rewritten version, “The Christmas Scrooge.”

It was almost Christmas time, there I stood in another line
People buyin’ that last gift or two, annoyingly in the Christmas mood
Standing right in front of me was a little boy so impatiently
Pacing ’round like all brats do
In his hands he held some butt-ugly shoes

His clothes were worn and old, he was dirty from head to toe
And when it came his time to pay
I rolled my eyes when I heard him say

“Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please
It’s Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there’s not much time
You see she’s been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight.”

He counted pennies for what seemed like years
Then the cashier said, “Son, there’s not enough here”
He searched his pockets frantically
Then he turned and he looked at me.
He said,” Mama made Christmas good at our house
Though most years she just did without.
Tell me Sir, what am I going to do?
Somehow I’ve got to buy her these Christmas shoes.”

He gave me puppy eyes, the kind I utterly despise
I’ll never forget the look on his face when I said
“Get lost kid, I’m running late.

If you want to buy these shoes for your Mama, please,
Try and have the cash on hand to pay.

Right now you’re just wasting time, which really makes me mad.
Cause if your mom’s been fading oh so quick
Then you really, really make me sick
For waiting last minute to get her something so you don’t feel bad.”

I knew I’d probably crossed a line
When he burst into tears and ran out.
But I was glad to teach that little boy
What the real world is all about.

“If you want to buy these shoes for your Mama, please,
Try and have the cash on hand to pay.
Don’t try to sucker me, cause handouts really make me mad.
Go and get a freaking job
Quit being such a welfare slob
You shouldn’t get my hard-earned cash, this is why this country’s gone to seed.”