Monday, June 09, 2008

The Last Dinosaurs Were Probably Angry, Too

This week's column--with a “This Is Spinal Tap” joke! Which my editor got, and loved! And even wanted to put it, “Well, it’s one louder, isn’t it?” but it was too big a stretch! Good headline, too; I’d forgotten about the GEICO cavemen, proof that if 30 seconds is good, 30 minutes isn’t guaranteed to be better.

East Valley Tribune, Jun. 8, 2008

When the dinosaurs went extinct, I’m certain nobody announced the exact moment. The day dawned just like the one before it, but the fearsome carnivores then ruling the planet were the last ones of their kind. The final tyrannosaur was as fierce as the first, but after he died, nobody took his place.

Extinction may happen quickly in geologic time, but it probably dragged on forever to generations of mammals eluding predators. And when our world changes, particularly on cultural matters, it’s a slow-motion process. It’s not like remembering where you learned Kennedy was shot, or the Challenger exploded. One day it seems like everybody’s upset over gay marriage, then some gays marry and the sky doesn’t fall, and eventually it’s only a few crackpots railing against gay marriage like slaveholder re-enactors at Colonial Williamsburg.

Evolution probably didn’t permit it, but the last dinosaurs should have had a prehistoric equivalent of talk radio, where they could complain about those new-fangled mammals and their disgusting live births. The hosts would urge listeners to demand that the government control the borders and keep Laurasia a reptilian homeland, the way it was always meant to be.

Oh, today’s political dinosaurs are still fierce enough, but it just feels different somehow; they’re the last of their kind and their descendants have different political and cultural DNA. To their kids, the whole “homosexual agenda” business seems about as important as whether you root for the Sun Devils or Wildcats. They’ll notice and might even care, but it’s just not the same.

Those kids today (with that noise they call music!) just don’t want to fight the same cultural battles. Remember how cranky Grandpa seemed when you were your kids’ age? Well, guess what? You’re now older than Grandpa was when you first had that thought, so just imagine what your kids think about your rants.

I thought of cranky Grandpa frequently this past week. Talk-show host J.D. Hayworth, the human equivalent of Nigel Tufnel’s amplifier that goes up to eleven, went ballistic over a mariachi group playing at a state event. I’m waiting for his station to ban salsa in the employee cafeteria, because real Americans only use ketchup.

A KTAR (92.3 FM) talk-show host explained his immigration program, hermetically sealing the borders and banning all immigration to the U.S. for five years. If somebody fell in love and wanted to bring their new bride or groom to live here, too bad. Tourists could visit or do business, briefly, but this guy wanted to stop the clock and calendar.

Americans used to welcome progress and change, but now there’s a real market in trying to freeze things as they are, like an insect in amber. Lots of dinosaurs got to freeze things permanently, too. They’re now called fossils.

So I can only imagine how these folks are handling the possibility that the next president could be a black guy with an unusual name. But if they’re having cognitive difficulties, it turns out they’re not alone.

One of the big mysteries of the Democratic campaign was Hillary Clinton’s support among African-American voters throughout 2007. Some observers thought her margin -- upwards of 20 points in many polls -- was due to minority support for her husband, or her policy proposals, but it turned out that many black voters just didn’t think a black candidate could win. Not just that it might be very hard for a black candidate, or that Obama wasn’t the right candidate, but that it just couldn’t happen. Not in this lifetime, anyway.

So when Obama won Iowa, black voters realized his campaign wasn’t a novelty act, but serious and with a good chance to win -- and what had been a major pillar of Hillary Clinton’s support suddenly shifted to a different candidate. She managed to garner other supporters, primarily among white male ethnics, but never managed to increase her overall support significantly.

Black voters figured out the world has changed. But it’ll probably be a couple years yet before our local angry white guys realize they’re dinosaurs.

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