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Is America becoming tacky, or were we always that way? Are we as a
nation developing a Trailer Trash esthetic? Fixated on Furbies? Bonkers
about Beanie Babies? Bananas over breast implants? Pixilated by cheese
poofs? Habituated to home shopping? Fetishistic about freak-shows?
Transfixed by thong underwear? Seized by South Park? Stunned by the
Simpsons? Fascinated by Flesh-Eating Bacteria? Vulgarized by Viagra
after being pacified by Prozac? Is this … the Disneyfication of Desire?
Life as a Giant Theme Park?

Let’s take a poll: Do you think America’s Going to Heck in that
proverbial Handbasket? Or is it a Done Deal? My articulation of the
Tacky Question came after I was compelled by conscience to consider the
queasy notion of Larry Flynt as our nation’s Moral Compass. And so I
sought comfort by perusing a small Buddhist religious tract, THE KEY TO
IMMEDIATE ENLIGHTENMENT, by the Supreme Master Ching Hai — which had
this passage on our country that I shall now pass on to you so you can
fully grasp my meaning: “The last time on the way here from Hong Kong, I
read the Newsweek and Time Magazines. I saw all kinds of disasters and
catastrophes such as hurricanes, airplane crashes, murders, and
diseases. … ” He SAW us. As we are.

Was there a turning point? I mean, what did we know, and when did we
know it? When it comes to America the Tacky, I am certain that some day,
history will show that allowing Right Turn on Red was the first cause of
the final downfall of Western Civilization, but we are too close now to
have perspective. My own personal line in the sand was crossed a long
time ago, I must confess, though not with Bill Clinton’s Freudian cigar,
which I see as merely his nod to Big Tobacco. Anyway, who among us could
REALLY stand scrutiny of our most private moments? For instance, just
imagine if this following incident had happened to Monica Lewinsky’s
mother instead of … mine.

When I was a mostly innocent little girl of maybe 11, growing up in
the wilds of northern New Jersey, my mother was collecting door to door
for the Red Cross or some such charity, dressed in her dark brown
processed mouton-lamb fur coat that made her look like a dancing bear
as she waddled down the street in that wind-up way you must walk when
you’re all bundled up in thick fur that you weren’t born with. And so
my mother knocked on the door of the police chief’s house on the next
block, hoping for a generous contribution considering all the graft
those guys would get.

Instead, standing there on the front step waiting for someone to
answer, she saw, through those three little panes of glass they used to
have in front doors before we developed the steel fortress approach to
protecting our houses. Chief Whoever and his Daisy Mae wife … DOING IT
completely naked on the living room floor! This barbarous sight made my
shocked mother yawp aloud in horror and sent her hopping back home to
immediately begin her Remedial Lectures on Eradicating Sex Series to me
before it was too late. Don’t you ever,” she began, pursing her lips
with the utmost Puritanical Virgo-Prude conviction, “and I do mean ever,
ever let a man put his hands on you anywhere!” Never? I asked in a still
small voice. “Never!” she thundered, with righteous wrath, and that was
when St. Bernadette of Lourdes replaced Princess SummerFallWinterSpring
as my personal heroine. And I do swear to you, there is no truth to
the rumor that my mother, Ken Starr and Trent Lott were in the same
kindergarten class.

Let’s face it, America’s been tacky enough. Everywhere I look, I see
early warning signs of impending Apocalypse, and it’s not a pretty
sight:

Girl Tarzan, Boy Jane: Moms, Beware — those odd new
unisex names you have chosen for your infants such as Camel and Chance
and Cashmere and Cilantro and Even and Cable may be hazardous to their
health. Listen, it’s just not natural to call your sons Spartacus, Tub,
Czar, Ahab, Marvelous, Quest. Or your daughters Insatiable, Bambina,
America, Echo. That’s how Texas Tower Assassins are made. You could be
sorry.

Anthrax Bomb Scares: While covert germ warfare stockpiles may
be on the rise internationally, Anthrax hoaxes are the latest trend in
domestic terror, the millennial prank equivalent to bomb scares,
targeting classrooms, courthouses, and nightclubs. “We don’t know why,”
said one FBI spokesman, “but it’s one of those sexy terms of the ’90s.”
The peril posed by threatened release of the deadly bacteria is
unimaginable. “With a bomb,” added the FBI dude, “you can send in a
robot or a dog or whatever.” But not with Anthrax. And even with empty
Anthrax scares and their concomitant bleach baths, building evacuations,
and emotional meltdowns, pranksters get the illicit thrill of creating
total chaos. Like the artist I once knew who named his cat Anthrax, for
the pure shock value when he’d call her for supper, “Here, Anthrax, here
Anthrax!”

The Shadowing of Sinatra’s Smile: Speaking of total chaos,
how about that FBI surveillance of Frank Sinatra. While he was alive. No
wonder they called the triumvirate of Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Peter
Lawford The Rat Pack.

Win One for the Zipper: Speaking of surveillance, more and
more men are having home accidents with vacuum cleaners and then
alibi-ing, “It got caught in the zipper.”

Swing Set: Speaking of zippers, an elderly Georgia couple
portrayed as victims of a murderer actually preyed on roadside strangers
for sex. The wife, 76, who originally claimed her husband, 72, had his
throat slit by an intruder, finally confessed the pair of septuagenarian
Southern swingers routinely picked up hitch-hikers for sexual
encounters, and this time their scheme backfired with the husband was
killed by one of their playmates who then tried to abscond with their
car and their cash. Cracking the case hinged upon a cold six-pack of
beer, which the wife claimed the hitch-hiker brought with him, but in
actuality, witnesses say the wife bought, and when police confronted her
with this detail, she broke down and told the truth.

Spelling Lesson: A Baltimore high-school girl claiming to be
a witch was suspended for reportedly casting a spell on a classmate. Her
mother, for the record, a male-to-female transsexual, used to be her
father.

Maine Chance: Prosecutors branded a Maine mother a criminal
for “stealing” a book from a local library. Actually, she failed to
return a six-months overdue library book on New England lighthouses, and
she was fined $200 after pleading guilty to a lesser charge.

Cold Shoulder: Speaking of lesser charges, China aligns with
a growling Russian bear while France murmurs stern disapproval of US
bombing of Baghdad, in what looks to me like the imminent return of the
Cold War. And for the first time since the Reagan era, an American
president calls for a massive increase in Defense spending he’s not sure
how he’ll fund. (Whatever happened to the promised Peace Dividend?) Is
this Bill Clinton’s belated attempt to curry favor with the
Military-Industrial Complex that really runs America, a sop to the true
Hidden Powers trying to run him outta office?

Fizzling out? Speaking about running folks outta office,
they’re already running outta champagne in Chicago, a bubbly shortage
expected to spread world-wide and leave the Year 2000 Celebration a bit
… flat. As supplies shrink, expect prices to double while worldwide
demand escalates. Truly a potential crisis of alarming proportions.

Be very afraid.

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