Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Second-Grade Political Junkie

A pre-Karl Rove era example of Karl Rove-style politics. . .in 1968.

Out of the big box of my old school papers, going back over 40 years came this gem: a military tank, topped by a guy hoisting a "We Want Nixon" sign, lobbing shells into a building labeled "Kenndy Headquters". Clearly, democracy best served from a smoking gun.

I guess kids were more politically involved back then, when your television set had only four channels (ABC, NBC, CBS, and NET--precursor to PBS). I don't really remember much from that political season. I do remember the day Robert F. Kennedy was shot, and how the neighborhood kids sat around on the front lawn wondering what it would be like to be shot in the head. And after hearing that doctors had to shave RFK's head to operate on the gunshot wounds, I remember taking scissors to the TIME magazine cover of RFK (by pop artist Roy Lichtenstein) and cutting his hair off.

The Lichtenstein cover: still vivid in my memories. . .

Let's face it, 1968 was just a fucked year. The war in Vietnam, the murders of Martin Luther King and RFK, and Nixon's eventually election. Politically, it was a year like no other--President Johnson unexpectedly deciding not to seek re-election, throwing the primary season into turmoil, party loyalties split among labor unions, peacenicks, minorities and southerners. Gene McCarthy and RFK actively pursued delegates through the primary process; vice president Hubert Humphrey sat most of these out, choosing to gather delegates at the national convention. With RFK dead, his supporters scattered to several other candidates, and Humphrey emerged from the riot-torn Chicago convention as the nominee, despite his unpopularity as an "establishment" candidate tarnished by the war. Ed Muskie of Maine was chosen as his running mate.

On the Republican side, it was Tricky Dick Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Nelson Rockefeller leading into the convention. Nixon had a commanding lead; a planned Reagan-Rockefeller challenge to Nixon fell apart when neither candidate would endorse the other, and Nixon chose Spiro Agnew of Maryland to round out the ticket.

Despite the large electorial college victory by Nixon, the popular vote difference was far tighter: around 500,000 votes, or 0.5%. Nixon came to office on a "Law and Order" platform, and he didn't disappoint his supporters, as the next six years of his presidency were among the most criminal in our nation's history. Unintentionally, I guess, I had it about right with my drawing from back in 1968: Nixon attacked the democratic headquarters, of course, in the Watergate break-in. He just used "plumbers" rather than military equipment.

What we were stuck with. . .

Stop The Madness!
There's eleven kinds of Coke
Five hundred kinds of cigarettes
This Freedom of Choice in the USA drives everybody crazy. . .
--John Doe
"See How We Are"

The shopping list M. gave me said simply "detergent."

M., of course, knew just what brand she'd buy when confronted with the choices on the grocery store aisle. I didn't. So, like John Doe, the choices were driving me bonkers.

I was making my once-every-two-years grocery shopping trip. M. usually handles that, and she has, bless her heart, since E. was a toddler (M. and E. were sick, so I took I. along with me for the two-hour adventure). I don't know if I'm just as clueless as George H.W. Bush allegedly was when he went shopping and encountered a price scanner, but I was amazed at how much MORE of everything there was--more brands, varieties, etc. And how much more expensive things have gotten.
There in front of me were the laundry detergents. Not just Wisk! and Tide! and the basic brands, but variation within the brands as well:

  • Sunshine Energy
  • Natural Elements
  • Fresh Rain
  • Joyful Expressions
  • Soothing Sensations
  • Mountain Fresh
  • Island Fresh
  • Outdoor Sunshine
  • Simple Pleasures
  • Febreze
  • Original Scent
  • Meadows & Rain
  • Pure Essentials
  • Stain-Lifter (ahhhh! that's the one I was looking for!)

The more I stared open-mouthed at the display, like some subject of the Soviet Union suddenly unleashed on their first trip shopping in the West, I realized that all this shit costs so much because manufacturers spend so much time, energy and money creating scents like "Mountain Fresh" and selling them to the consumer. I'm not advocating a return to a single box of dry detergent--love it or leave it. But, really, do we REALLY need so many laundry detergent choices?

Choices, too many choices. . .

Isn't It Ironic. . .
to sell t-shirts calling for an ebay boycott. . . .on ebay? I think we should all buy one of these, then give the seller a negative rating. . .just to fuck up their account. Whaddya say?

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