Better Luck Next Time

This column usually appears online a few days before it gets published in the newspaper. Online readers have the advantage of participating in a discussion about an event before it happens (which is somewhat of a national obsession). However, pixels tend to go in one eye and out the other and what we read online is soon forgotten. I believe this is how information technology has contributed to the impairment of our national short and long term memories.

Readers of the printed word are more given to hindsight, but they retain what they read longer. The printed word is absorbed more slowly. It takes more effort. We can’t pump up the font to make it more readable, but we’re not distracted by the videos that won’t stop playing or the headline below about the celebrity who “stuns in her bikini.” Plus, when the pixel page is long forgotten, the newspaper is still around to wrap something fragile or line the bottom of a bird cage.

The printed version of this page will be available for most people about the time a new president and vice president are being inaugurated. On that day, I’ll be chopping wood and carrying water, the same as the day before. I won’t be among the two most opinionated factions, the one celebrating and the other wearing sackcloth and ashes. It’s not that I don’t wish the new government well. I will pray for them as I hope all Americans do. It’s just that I don’t expect much to change in the same way that a fresh coat of paint doesn’t repair termite damage.

I do expect the new regime to be heavy on symbolic actions and platitudes. They’ve got four years to justify their “win at all costs” victory and to come to terms with their new bosses. If you think I’m referring to the voters who supported them, then you haven’t been paying attention. Neither do I speak of the tremendous effort of grass roots supporters who knocked on doors and motivated people to vote. I refer, instead, to the mind games that motivated them.

“Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.” Almost. The new boss is the handful of tech companies and billionaires who control the flow of information, who went out of their way to obscure any facts that would threaten their candidates and silence dissent. Today they support democrats. Tomorrow, who knows?

Bosses may change, but as the years go by and I read and read again about the history of economics and war, I begin to suspect that the ownership of the company never changes. The new boss will celebrate diversity and pronouns, legislate symbols, create stacks of executive orders – and conjure trillions of dollars of new pixel money. Bread and milk will be more expensive, but stocks in whiskey and gunpowder will soar.

“I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again”

Too late. Better luck next time.


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