Used to be, when I flipped channels, I’d go from one movie to another, one drama to another, one news show to another, etc. These days, I’m more likely to go from one commercial to another—and more likely than not, it’s a prescription pill commercial!
Wasn’t there supposed to be a “War on Drugs”? Pinch me awake, but I’m guessing that we Baby Boomers lost… because it’s pretty clear that drugs—especially the “legal” ones—have proliferated in the heart of the Empire the way drones have darkened the skies over Afghanistan, Pakistan and all the little stans.
The commercials are getting longer, more numerous, and more absurd. At least half of what they’re packaging is the sound-track! A commercial starts out with Cajun music, folks enjoying themselves over barbecue. Congenial, upbeat. Think shrimp, crabs, Tabasco. They’re selling you something for diabetes or high blood pressure or—it almost doesn’t matter. Next time you’re feeling bad in any way, you’ll call your doctor—do people still call their doctors?—you’ll go to the hospital and you’ll ask whomever it is who’s giving you a 5 minute exam if “Invokana” or whatever is what you need? (You’ve heard it will “lower your numbers.”) Doc will stroke his/her chin, and probably prescribe—you asked for it by name, didn’t you?
Whatever it is, you get caught up in the music, the sound track about how good this stuff is for you—you can be “down with Crestor”! You can wear an orange bowling jersey, pretend you’re still in your carefree college days; with all that cheerful musak playing in your head, you tend to forget the side effects. Yes, it can “lower your blood sugar” and you’ll “love your numbers,” but—soft voice here—could cause dehydration, kidney problems, yeast, rash, difficulty breathing or swallowing….
No time for any real cogitation. It’s throw the worms out there, and reel the fish in! Our politics works the same way.
Every third time I flip, I land on a “news” program where there are yakking heads (used to be talking, now they just yak—kind of like real yaks!)—giggling, oohing, ah-ing, laying odds on latest announcements by Hillary Shrillary, Jeb the Bush, Rand the Paul, Ted the Harvard-Hispanic guy, and Marco the Cuban-American guy.
To be fair, I should not call her “Shrillary.” That was the old Hillary—or rather, the young Hillary of the early 90s when she refused to stay at home and bake cookies. New model is “mature,” “experienced,” “seasoned” who wants to be the “champion of the Middle Class.” Great! Let’s narrow the gap between the gazillionaires and the rest of us. Isn’t it time for a woman in the White House? Side effects: Likely to cause “buyers’ remorse.” Not the “buyers” who will put up the $2.5 billion her campaign managers estimate she’ll need to run and keep running for the next 560 days+ days. No, those buyers—people like Soros—will be fine because Lady McHillary will deliver. (It’s all there in the secret, somehow erased, emails!)
Switch to Jeb the Reliable. You got to trust this guy because… didn’t he step aside to let his nincompoop younger brother play at the presidency for 8 years? His family is famous, man! And didn’t he run the Sunshine state just impeccably—that state where they fire scientists who utter the phrase “climate change” in public! (Google it!) Didn’t his old man do a bang-up fine job with the Gulf War? Side effects: Endless wars seem to run in the family, and may be habit-forming.
Switch to Rand Paul. I admit: I liked his father. Principally, because he spoke out against the American Empire’s proclivity to make war upon all those who are not, in the judgment of Madelyn Albright types, “indispensable.” Ron also suggested we might, just might, maybe, a teensy-weensy, consider re-balancing our lopsided, unbalanced, out-of-kilter relationship with the new Goliath of the Middle East—Israel. Rand, of course, has learned well from his father: learned what not to do. In his announcement speech he said he was not afraid to name the enemy—“Islamic Fundamentalism!” He said he wants to “restrain government and expand freedom.” (Just what is this “freedom” stuff they all talk about, but never bother to define or qualify?) Side Effects: Likely to precipitate Adelsonitis, a $100-million ailment, from which Mitt Romney suffered, causing quixotic delusions.
Switch to ad for Symbicort: Open with paunchy, grandfatherly type seated on couch with cute 5-yr old boy; grandfather reading from a children’s book of fairy tales. Cut to pictures in children’s book, suddenly animated, showing big, bad wolf in front of final dwelling of the 3 little pigs. Grandfather’s over-voice: something about wolf “huffing and puffing.” Cut to grandpa and kid on sofa. Kid: “Kind of like you, Grandpa.” Grandpa: “Well, if you have COPD, it can be hard to breathe.” Cut to bedraggled, animation of wolf, huffed and puffed-out, in female wolf-doctor’s office. (We’re supposed to feel sorry for the wolf, not happy for the pigs!) Solution for COPD sufferers (wolverines and humans, supposedly): Symbicort! Side Effects: Those who bother to Google, will find on the first page): “Generic Name: budesonide/ formoterol.” “It is possible that some of the side effects of Symbicort may not have been reported. These can be reported to the FDA….” “More common” side effects include, “difficulty with breathing” (!), fever, body aches or pain, loss of voice, shortness of breath (!).
Switch to Prilosec commercial. Redneck comedian is about to run his little rowboat–with revved-up, back motor right thru a burning hoop. This clown has box of Prilosec in his hand, as we cut to long shot of boat jumping thru the hoop (obviously a different actor). Cut to Redneck comedian still hawking Prilosec to conquer heartburn. Side Effects: May cause idiocy!– a belief that one can eat any kind of garbage one pleases and survive to jump rowboats thru burning hoops!
Switch to short interview with Bernie Sanders on CNN’s Wolf Blitzer show. Highlights: Sanders is unsure he’ll run because of the gargantuan task of taking on the special interests—the huge costs of a campaign. Says we’ve got to take on the billionaire class, overturn Citizens United (Amen to that!). Notes that the top 1/10 of 1% of Americans control more money than the bottom 90%; and, some 99% of the money “returned” to Americans since the “Great Recession” has gone to the top 1%…. Sanders notes in passing that he’s the longest-sitting Independent US Senator in US history. (I’ll note, in passing, that he comes from Vermont—perhaps the best state in the US, and I’ve been in 40 of them.) Side Effects: After some topical applications of Bernie-think, one might develop an incurable case of AutoCogitationitis—an incorrigible desire to think for oneself.
Gary Corseri has performed his work at the Carter Presidential Library, and his dramas have been produced on PBS-Atlanta and elsewhere. He has published novels and collections of poetry, has taught in US public schools and prisons and in US and Japanese universities. His work has appeared at CounterPunch, The New York Times, Village Voice and hundreds of publications and websites worldwide. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.