The appeal of unreality

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* By Garrison Keillor Salon *

Conservatives keep screaming for small government, as if their darlings, Reagan and Bush II, hadn’t enlarged it

Ever since that night in June when we filed onto the football field in our mortarboards and gowns and the distinguished speaker (what was his name?) informed us that we were entering a time of rapid and unparalleled change, we’ve been waiting and hoping, but here we are, all grown up, and the same soupy music is dripping from the ceilings of lobbies, the internal combustion engine rules the land, ditto the hamburger, fashion is retro, movies tend to be remakes, and Congress is more like itself than it ever was before. The same stuffed peppers are harrumphing and pontificating and posing for photos with the 4-H’ers and the winners of the 2010 Western Regional Wiener Eating Contest and reading prepared statements on C-SPAN denouncing folks who would throw grandmothers down the stairs and meanwhile hustling the money and working the angles and keeping their eyes focused on their very own tasseled loafers.

When Al Franken ran for the Senate, people questioned his credentials, but good grief, people, comedy is hard work compared to harrumphing. It takes brains and elegance and courage to make people laugh. A comedian who joins the Senate has taken a step down on the social scale and everybody knows it.

Congress needs to do a few simple, sensible things just to show us they are alert and on the job. Could we start by passing a resolution ordering the Transportation Security Administration to immediately cease the P.A. announcements in airports warning people against accepting packages from persons unknown to carry aboard an aircraft?

This is an insult to the American traveler. It’s like telling people to please not approach the security checkpoint at a fast trot while yelling “Allah is great.” People know not to do this. If they are likely to accept a box from a stranger who wants them to carry it to Denver and mail it, then they should not be traveling around unescorted.

Unparalleled change? I don’t see it. You walk into an icy-chill shopping mall in the middle of July and imagine the consequences of all that refrigeration, our descendants living in an arid country, living in abandoned office parks by the ruins of freeways and wondering how their ancestors could have been so dense. Nothing new about selfishness, nor about paranoia: For the rest of our lives we will be removing our shoes and waiting on the other side of the scanner while a nice woman wipes our laptop with a swab and puts it into an expensive machine to test for plastic explosives, meanwhile our children go to school at 6 a.m. to save money on buses and they doze through history and algebra.

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