Great cartoon: Do you remember how absurd the Japanese diplomats looked in their tall black hats and the most formal-looking tuxedoes ever seen as they signed the surrender documents for Gen. Douglas MacArthur on the deck of the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945? The cartoon, published about the time postwar Japan was gaining fame in portable electronics, showed the Japanese delegation walking back across the deck to take their small boat back to Tokyo.
As they solemnly marched toward the ship’s ladder, their imperial dreams of a Japanese “Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere” a smoking, radioactive ruin, the caption read, “Well, what the hell. There’s still transistor radios!”
Is America now having its similar moment?
My wife, a patriotic multi-media journalist of long and good standing, was recoiling at the start of the Fourth of July holiday. “I’ve never before in my entire life read so many depressing articles about America’s fate,” she almost wailed. “Victor Davis Hanson. David Limbaugh, Thomas Sowell, Mark Steyn.” Not that we need revered experts to tell us.
When we boys used to gather on somebody’s living room floor after school to play Monopoly, I remember the feeling when all the others had the red properties, the yellow properties, the green properties, the ultra-expensive Park Place and Boardwalk blue properties and the orange properties you always landed on when you were getting out of jail; all of them menacingly hotel-studded. And there I was with a light bulb and a railroad upside-down (meaning mortgaged and inactive) and under 50 dollars in cash.
“What are we doing sitting here inside?” I’d complain. “Let’s fold the board, pack away all this nonsense and go play football!”
That was just a board game. What do you fold, what do you pack and where do you go when America fails?
The boxer, slumped on the stool in his corner between rounds, had been taking a ruthless pounding. His manager was one of those empty pep-talkers who told him, “He ain’t layin’ a glove on you. He ain’t landin’ a single good punch on you.” “Well,” replied the pummeled boxer, “Keep an eye on the referee. SOMEBODY’s beatin’ the daylights out of me!”
A huge, flashy diner moved into our West Side Manhattan neighborhood a few years ago and did a mammoth business; it’s now closed. A world-famous bagel place with long lines snaking way beyond the front door; closed. My wife and I were walking up Broadway headed for our favorite Greek restaurant last Wednesday night and suddenly realized we were a block past it. It was dark; closed. “Look,” she said just now, pointing out the window as I was headed for the computer. The once-flourishing electronics store across the street; closed. And all this wreckage within five blocks of one another. Who was that who said “Recovery”?
When it comes to media, a little exaggeration among consenting adults can do for a column what oregano does for a salad, but this is ice-cold literal. A mathematical genius might have said to me during one of those high-school Monopoly games, “Forget football. Stick in there, kid. It’s a long shot, but if enough of those other players land on your light bulb and you successfully avoid ALL of their hotels from now on, and if you bring in enough cash to turn your railroad right-side up again, you can get back in this game!” I’d still want to quit, but at least I’d have to agree his ridiculous optimism is theoretically possible.
I fail to understand any “theory” I’ve heard so far about how America wins this particular game. Nothing the Obama administration has said so far even rises to the level of an empty pep-talk. The president mentioned “corporate jet tax” six times in his recent “tax-the-rich” appeal. In 10 years, that would bring in $3 billion – less than 0.1 percent of the deficit. You may as well tell us how bravely you’ve protected America’s forests because you once threw a rock at a woodpecker.
The Republicans, though an improvement, aren’t a sufficient improvement. Get out of here with your “billions,” man. We need trillions. You can’t steal second without taking your foot off first. Did I really read serious projections of national debt approaching 100 percent of GDP?
Employment is down. Housing is down. Confidence is down. Meanwhile, the stock market is up. Does that also give YOU the strange feeling of the deep-sea diver on the ocean floor who gets an urgent call through his headset: “Hurry on up, the ship is sinking!”?
During World War II, a chaplain who accompanied a bombing mission over Germany was terrified by the flak-hits the now-wobbly plane was taking. He crawled up to the cockpit and said to the pilot, “Captain, I’m afraid we’re in trouble. The boys in the back are cussing.”
“Padre,” replied the pilot, “Get back to me when they quit cussing and start praying.”
Forgive me for keeping you so long. Has the prayer service started already?