Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What Happened To Uncle Sam?

Those of us who look at The United States through cynical and realistic eyes have known for a dozen years or more that the U.S. government had both the willingness and the capability to bring down our nation. What we didn’t know, until the last two weeks, was that our government could pretty much destroy the whole world as well. I’m not talking about unleashing our nukes. I’m talking about exporting financial dysfunctionality and economic stupidity on a scale never before seen on the planet.

Bright people saw it coming. In a NY Times editorial two weeks ago, Paul Krugman described The United States as a “Banana Republic with nukes.” Like most of what Paul Krugman says, his words were attacked by the usual Bush apologists (BillO’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh) as NY Times liberalism. Then, yesterday, Paul Krugman won the Nobel Prize for economics, and for most of us this validated what we’ve always suspected about Krugman—that he knows what he’s talking about. The Bush-loving conservatives, however, are now saying that the Nobel Prize selection committee is just another egghead group dominated by liberals.

All of this brings me to a caricature poster that I saw over the past weekend. The image on the poster was a rendering of a naked man, and sitting on top of the shoulders was the head of Uncle Sam with his Lincolnesque gray beard, and his red, white and blue top hat. The implication of the cartoon image was that Uncle Sam has become the emperor with no clothes. This made me realize that we just never see Uncle Sam anymore. You would think that, with an all volunteer military, we might see the old familiar image of the bearded man pointing his finger out from the poster and declaring, “Uncle Sam Wants You.” But we never see that anymore, and I think I know why. I asked myself whether Uncle Sam represented a liberal, or a conservative. My answer was that he represented neither. He represented the government at a time when such ideological divisions—if they existed at all—were not the dominant features of the political landscape. Those days are gone.

Now that we have a Banana Republic with nukes, maybe we need a new personification of our dysfunctional and ideologically-divided government, and I can’t think of anything better than the caricature of naked Uncle Sam wearing nothing but his top hat.

No comments: