Thursday, October 16, 2008

Our Sweet Union

I think we can come up with a statement on which all Americans, Republican or Democrat, rich or poor, straight or gay, can agree, despite our country's being so tragically and ferociously divided. The first universal American sentiment I came up with was "Sugar is sweet."
--Kurt Vonnegut

The political ticker buzzed like a seismometer as the Republicans and Democrats waged their latest war of words.

The rumpus du jour began when the Senator from Arizona paid a visit to a beet-processing facility in Bay County, Michigan. No doubt, the Senator thought nothing of it when he told a hastily-assembled audience of beet farmers and sugar processors, "It is such a pleasure to see what you do at the Michigan Sugar Company. As you can imagine, friends, when I was staying at the Hanoi Hilton they never fed us dessert. When I came home in 1973, despite all the debate over the war, I knew there was one thing about which every true American can agree: sugar is sweet!"

Within the hour, angry press releases from the Illinois Senator's campaign were crawling through fax machines at every news organization: "If our opponent really thinks sugar is sweet, why not support increased production of sugar for ethanol? Revitalizing rural economies - now that is sweet!"

The GOP treated this like an easy setup, and went for the kill. "One might say our opponent is merely pandering for the farm vote," said their press release. "But we also see a sly insinuation between the lines that because our candidate was tortured in Vietnam he doesn't understand sweet when he tastes it. Our opponent ought to be ashamed. This slander is a desperate attack by a campaign that is out of touch with the real America, where we know the real difference between sweet and sour."

Overnight, an independent 527 organization called "War Prisoners Who Had Dessert" produced an ad in which three former prisoners insisted their captors had fed them mousse on occasion. The ad showed a grainy photograph of the young lieutenant commander, now running for President, eating what appeared to be a piece of pound cake. The newly-dubbed "McSweet For America" campaign immediately countered by insisting the Senator was actually eating shrapnel. "In fact," said the Senator, "Shrapnel is all I ate for five years." On CNN, Wolf Blitzer devoted an entire program to the ad. "The real question in this election as of today," said Blitzer, "Is whether a man can actually live on a diet of shrapnel for five years. Please email us your thoughts and we'll get Dr. Gupta's medical opinion after these messages."

Gleefully, the Democrats arranged a press conference with retired boxer Sugar Ray Leonard, who gave his endorsement to the Illinois Senator. It took several days for the Illinois Senator to respond to the controversy himself, as he was on another tour of Europe and trying to arrange an appearance with the Pope. From the balcony of a villa in Capri, the senator finally responded to "SugarGate" with his most ambitious speech to date, a speech sure to top all of his other speeches in rhetorical majesty, a speech for the ages.

"I have a sweet tooth for my country," said the Senator with urgency. "A sweet tooth for my country to come together and hold this truth to be self-evident: that sugar is sweet. I have a sweet tooth for my daughters, and the hope they will grow up in a country where we all understand that white sugar and brown sugar are both sweet. And molasses. And honey. And stevia. And yes, friends, agave nectar, too! I have a sweet tooth today. I have seen the shining bakery on the hill, where all our ingredients combine into wholesome goodness that will feed our nation and our world!"

The Democrats had now stolen the sugar narrative. The GOP moved quickly to get the momentum back. The "McSweet" signs were taken down and campaign manager Rick Davis appeared on Fox News to tell Bill O'Reilly: "Real Americans understand that sugar isn't necessarily sweet. The Democrats have nothing to offer but candy, saying to the hungry people of America, 'Let them eat cake.'"

O'Reilly looked grave. "'Let them eat cake.' That's what Napoleon said. Do you agree the Democrat has a napoleon complex? I've always thought so."

Meanwhile, the beet processing plant in Michigan closed down, and a farmer who had shaken hands with the Arizona Senator packed up his truck, kissed his wife and two daughters goodbye, and drove off to look for work out of state. The sun was not yet up as he drove past harvested beet fields with radio talk shows keeping him company, sipping black coffee and taking comfort in its bitter taste.


(This piece was written last month and submitted to a few newspapers and journals that print satire. No one wanted it, but it got a chuckle when I read it at an open mike here in Deming. In the wake of the final presidential debate, please enjoy...)


Andrew said...

As someone who has watched both these campaigns get off message and get just plain nasty, one more than the other, I thank you for this sweet piece to remind us all of what is important.

Blue said...

McCain is going to have a great deal of trouble with female voters, methinks. I, myself, am anti abortion, but, as so many people point out, that is a personal decision and a point of view many Americans do not share. In a political sense, I am pro choice. McCain calls for more morals in our country, but what he doesn’t seem to realize is that his call to morality is in a very Christian light, and not everyone in America is Christian, nor have a Christian sense of morality. In addition to racial and religious diversity, we also have moral diversity, and dictating a specific set of morals over another to people is the wrong way to go about change.

I think, however, that McCain missed the mark. I don’t believe our society is devoid of morals, but rather we’re apathetic. That sense of apathy deadens us to a great deal: curiosity, tolerance, and basic pride. If anything, our culture needs a shock of emotion to invigorate our intellectual interests, artistic expression, and creative spirit that made us technologically innovative in the past.

More and more, I'm beginning to believe that Obama is the better emissary for that change.