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Let’s just say, for the sake of discussion, that there are 300,000,000 people living in America.
And let’s just assume, while we’re looking at numbers, that all but 10 of those people watched this year’s Super Bowl.
Of the 299,999,990 people who saw the New York Giants edge the New England Patriots, roughly half were probably trashed before kickoff; half of that half by the end of the first quarter; and half of that half by the end of the second.
This leaves us with roughly 37,499,998 citizens who made it to halftime in the neighborhood of sober.
And let’s just say that when the Pats took a 10-9 lead to the lockers, a third of those sober folks got up to pee.
If my calculations are correct—and certainly, they aren’t—this means there were roughly 24,999,998 able-minded, empty-bladdered Americans left on their couches to watch Clint Eastwood’s Chrysler commercial.
I wonder how many of those people realized it was bunk.
The big controversy this week—because this is America, and there must be a big controversy every week—is whether Eastwood’s commercial was a veiled endorsement of President Obama’s economic policies. The commercial talks about it being “halftime in America” (a metaphor I still only sort of get), and suggests that if the people of Detroit were able to band together to make it through tough times, so could all of America.
I’m not surprised people are seeing politics in this message, because some people see politics in everything. Unfortunately, there is a political statement being made here, but it has nothing to do with Democrats, Republicans, or bailouts.
The real political statement being made is that, for our country to succeed in our so-called second half, it’s going to take billion-dollar car companies and other similarly sized businesses to help us thrive. I don’t buy that for a second. And if that were true, it would be a terribly sad day for this country, because it would represent the exact opposite of what we all like to believe is the American ideal.
People in this country always like things big. Big trucks. Big steaks. Larger-than-life celebrities. It’s been this way at least since the days of Manifest Destiny, and probably before that. We reach for the stars. And this is a good thing.
But there is a point when bigger isn’t better. And we’ve seen it in this country. Largeness often comes at the expense of competition, innovation, and cultural diversity. For every Barnes & Noble, there is one less independent bookstore. For every Starbucks, there’s one less local coffee shop.
Some people believe this is free enterprise, and to some extent it is. But to some extent, it also isn’t, because the more big boxes our society relies on, the more homogenized and centralized our culture—and our thinking—becomes.
Just take the concept of job creation. We love discussing job creation these days. Politicians love to discuss it. Companies like Chrysler love to discuss it. But why are we content to live in a country where some central authority or institution needs to create jobs for us? Shouldn’t we be creating jobs for ourselves? Creating our own businesses? Shouldn’t America’s comeback, or second half, or whatever we’re calling it these days, be focused less on the too-big-to-fail and more on the small-but-just-smart-enough-to-work?
That is the true heart of capitalism and free enterprise: people having dreams, not working for the weekend; people finding their own way, not working for someone else.
The brand name politicians and their brand name political parties don’t endorse these ideals, because they don’t benefit from them. What they benefit from is a culture of need and reliance and dependence, instead of a culture of go-out-and-do-it.
Which is why it doesn’t matter if Eastwood’s commercial was endorsing Obama, because no matter which party takes the White House this November, we’re still likely to have that top-down sort of culture. And that sort of culture is antithetical to liberty. It’s the culture of the bland and the lazy and the helpless.
You really want inspiration for America’s second half? Imagine some number, some really large number—let’s make it 24,999,998 able-minded, empty-bladdered Americans—waking up tomorrow and realizing everything about this country is completely out of whack.
Imagine 24,999,998 able-minded, empty-bladdered Americans demanding a climate where giant corporations can’t buy politicians and write their own laws, at the expense of competition.
Imagine 24,999,998 able-minded, empty-bladdered Americans thinking two parties is way too few.
Imagine 24,999,998 able-minded, empty-bladdered Americans realizing when Thomas Jefferson talked about pursuing happiness, he meant them.