MEET YOUR FEdeRAL GOVERNMENT
(Guest post by Mark W. Bradley)
A couple of years ago, I wrote a widely unread article entitled Teaching the Constitution in a Post-democratic America, in which I pondered the difficulty of instructing public school students on the institutional foundations of our republic, even as those institutions were being energetically dismantled by those sworn to uphold them. Since then, I have discovered the source of my confusion. It seems I’ve been trying to teach the kids about governmental institutions in an age dominated by the cult of personality. I was busy illuminating for them how oxygen is sucked out of the public discourse by the corporate media’s obsession with the air-head heirs of hotel magnates and the talent-less progeny of trash TV producers. Of course, what my students were interested in hearing about was Paris Hilton and Tori Spelling. Having discovered the error of my ways, I’ve now completely dispensed with the boring old “institutional underpinnings of our government” stuff, and instead now dish out tabloid-style mini-bios of the fabulously exciting and interesting people behind the institutions. To illustrate my point, here is a copy of my very first in-class handout of the school year:
MEET YOUR FEdeRAL GOVERNMENT
President George W. Bush: Unlike former president Jimmy Carter, no one can accuse George W. Bush of getting bogged down in minutia. In fact, he doesn’t allow himself to get bogged down in what comes after the Roman numerals on an 8th grade social studies outline. Frankly, he’s too busy reading. Last summer, he’s reported to have read Salt - A World History. Not one to become easily distracted from his stated goals, Bush has since put a moratorium on his recreational reading until Mark Kurlansky completes the companion edition, The History of Pepper. But the president’s talents are not limited to simple reading. He can speak, as well. Well, maybe not as well as some (or even as well as he used to, perhaps), but he can speak. Oh sure, he’s a little “verb challenged” at times, but seeing the captivating smile on his cute little face as he proudly pronounces polysyllabic words correctly is guaranteed to warm the cockles of your heart. And watching him e-nun-ci-ate the last set of consonants like a super-smart first-grade phonics teacher is a nice touch too, don’t you think? What can I say, the guy’s an intellectual vole on large-animal doses of veterinary Xanax…
Vice-President Richard Cheney: Mr. Cheney can best be described as an individual to whom wealth and power are of paramount personal concern. By this I mean he is as greedy as a recently-neutered chocoholic trencherman with whirling hypnotic spirals in his eye-sockets (and a feeding frenzy of ravenous tapeworms wriggling in his grossly engorged gut), shoveling bucket-loads of Belgian crème truffles into his gargantuan gaping gullet, oblivious to the fact that the candy store he is so feverishly intent on scouring is rapidly becoming engulfed in flames. Even as the crystallized sugar-encrusted teeth rot out of his bulbous balding head, it concerns him not, for he has already deployed a team of mercenary prosthetic dentists into nearby low-income neighborhoods armed with rolls of quarters, the better to purchase perfectly healthy new teeth from needy nine-year-olds. (Are we clear on his guy yet?)
Secretary of Defense Donald “Duckwing” Rumsfeld: Mr. Rumsfeld has the distinction of having served as both the youngest and the oldest Secretary of Defense in American history. This makes perfect sense, as he shows every sign of having passed directly from puerility to senility without stopping to wind his watch. At least he has the distinction of having gained a first-class education along the way. He studied rhetoric and public speaking with Professor Casey Stengel, military tactics with General George Armstrong Custer, ethics and morality with the honorable King Richard III, and nuclear physics with the Nobel Prize Nominated Theodoric of York. Nothing escapes Rumsfeld’s colander-like mind, with the possible exception of each and every element on the Periodic Table. His historical myopia is so all-encompassing, he once praised Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi as a “visionary.” In the event Mr. Rumsfeld should become accidentally imprisoned in a wet paper bag, please call 9(-)11 immediately. (God knows he does every chance he gets.)
*As I develop more educational hand-outs for my students, I will continue to share them on my daughter’s website (the godless hussy).
Mark W. Bradley is a schoolteacher and political satirist in Sacramento, California. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.