The Sage Grouse

Aliens and Cowboys

We make up movies showing aliens as crafty, cunning or just plain brutal invaders, with plots always reaching a nasty, evidently inevitable, horrifying moment when all human life is about to be snuffed out. Then we gin up some oddball societal faction as the community-building, self-sacrificing, clever antidote which smashes the invaders into oblivion, welding a diverse society into a, well, community.

No one asks what happens during the next round when the aliens, possessing superior intelligence and technology, learn from their mistake of underestimating their opponents and return to make us into the equivalent of a terrestrial ant colony.

Tea Party 2010 Majorities versus Obama 2008 Electoral Mandate Democrats debates won’t matter much in that context.

Dang it, say readers. We wanted some respite from the unrelenting debates about whether the Republicans should geld the economy in the name of gutting big government or the Democrats should stick to their probably outdated 2008 mandate to create jobs. We are tired of hearing about our retirement savings melting down again. We wanted some pure science fiction. And now The Sage Grouse, on the verge of a good alien story, yanks us back into reality.

Reality? What part of the Boehner/Cantor/Reid/McConnell/Pelosi debates resembles “reality?” Oh, sorry, I was not thinking. TV has been bringing us “reality shows” for 10 years or so, where we get to watch non-union actors break down, yell, eat worms, cry, throw punches and trash-talk for non-union wages, which is billed and consumed as entertainment.

I personally don’t care so much about the union part; it’s just a lot cheaper for TV producers to pay non-union cameramen to film amateurs emoting and whining than to pay union screen writers and actors to make sitcoms or good drama.

The proliferation of “reality” programming has created expectations among the general public that hair-pulling, betrayal of loyalty, treachery and trash-talking are acceptable parts of prime-time, and therefore, societal, behavior. Mix in some anti-Obama sentiment, a generous dose of anti-government bias, some bad taste and bad hair (Michele Bachmann, really, get to Fantastic Sams), and this beats the tar out of cheap reality TV. Survivor? Who will it be? Obama, Boehner, Cantor?

I’m afraid to hit the morning coffee-shop circuit, where rejoicing in hair-pulling may be the favored daily theme. The gym, where everyone is sweating and grunting, is a much better venue for starting the day.

This is an age of multiple TV news channels, tweeting and instant pocket devices of many colors (bringing to mind Biblical references — after all, I am a preacher’s kid — like Joseph’s coat or the Tower of Babel. So let’s layer immediate gratification on top of Cowboys Whip Aliens on top of We Hate Government. Who the hell can tell fiction from reality at this point?

The governments of Iran and North Korea, usually the trendsetters in the definition of venal politics, must be amused that our Congress contrived a decision-aversive solution to increasing the debt limit to match the already-authorized spending. The Saudis must be laughing in their harems. The Chinese are remonstrating: Why should we invest in American Treasury bonds?

If we need the cowboys to whip this mess, let’s go find them. Hello? Senators Enzi and Barrasso? Cynthia?

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Published on August 16, 2011

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