I was at a fast food restaurant yesterday, and I asked for some utensils. The fellow behind the counter gave me a spork.
For the uninitiated, a spork is a plastic utensil intended to be usable as a spoon or a fork which is really suitable as neither.
You see, the prongs at the edge of the spoon part make it hard to eat soup, and the shortness of said prongs makes it hard to eat salad. Don’t even think about trying to cut up a T-bone with it.
The spork struck me as a metaphor for our bloated, well-intended but ineffectual society.
We want this nation to be all things to all people, and because of this it fails to be much of anything to anyone anymore. Our eagerness to help the homeless has resulted in huge pockets of them in New York, Santa Monica and San Francisco. Our insistence upon paying a living wage and health benefits to our workforce has made our economy unable to compete with nations that don’t have such high ideals. (Try suggesting universal healthcare in China and you’ll probably be hauled away for “re-education.”)
For a nation built upon capitalism, we have a socialist heart. And our good intentions often result in wasteful spending and ineptitude at the government level. We aren’t truly a liberal nation, but neither have we been very conservative lately. These days, we seem to exemplify the worst characteristics of both categories. We’re one big spork.
We’re a law & order society paid for by the robber-barons of Corporate America. We’ve got a war on drugs that has virtually failed at everything but putting millions of miserable souls in jail. We’ve got a war on terror that will confiscate an old lady’s knitting needles at Newark, but can’t seem to find the cave dwelling of a 7 foot Saudi with blood work issues. And we’ve invaded a sovereign nation and tortured people in the name of freedom, democracy and justice.
We consider ourselves a spiritual, God-fearing people, until our faith is tested by a troublesome theory of how we evolved, and until someone tries to tell us we should keep our faith out of our governance, at which point we become a lot less spiritual. (When Pat Robertson uses The 700 Club as a platform to call for murder, it’s a pretty sure sign that the Christian agenda has veered a bit off course.)
We want safer cities and streets, but not if it means we have to limit our access to recreational weaponry. (As a result, people now hunt with AK-47’s and fish with explosives.)
In New Orleans, we were like the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dike, except no one paid attention to the calls for help until the dam burst. (The Christian coalition feels the disaster was God’s will, because only a sinner would put his finger in a dike in the first place.)
We used to have checks and balances to guarantee no one abused their power, but when there was enough of a majority to over-ride them, the checks and balances were kept in check thru a balancing act, and now we can’t write a big enough check to balance the budget.
We want Saddam Hussein convicted for mass murder in a fair trial, but after killing tens of thousands of innocent civilians in his country, don’t we really make him look like a neophyte? At this point, the best we can really hope for is that Saddam’ll pull a Slobodon, and croak in the can. That’s about the only realistic resolution that will satisfy our sporkiness. It has the arc of a fair trial, but it has the pointed ending.
The Republicans are their own worst enemy this election, and the Democrats can always be counted upon, as my friend Durst says, to form a firing squad in a circle. One side will try to claim victory in the war on terror, and the other side will try to win by saying “at least we aren’t them.”
A lot of Americans did vote for the president, so his failure as a leader is shared by all of us in the United Sporks of America. We collectively have the thick skull of an elephant grafted onto the stubborn carcass of a jackass. He represents us. To paraphrase Ann Richards, speaking of his father, “Poor George…he can’t help it…he was born with a silver spork in his mouth.”