When Satire Turns into Reality

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Eight years ago when George W. Bush was handed the election by the Supreme Court, I was in New York City, working at the Village Voice, that bastion of liberalism and lefty queers. The night of the election, I was in Astoria, Queens, eating an Italian dinner and checking my phone for news updates, then a newfangled technology that was certainly costing me a lot of money.

As the dinner progressed, and me and my roommate made our way back to our house in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, the updates were more and more dire; Al Gore, who had previously seemed like he would take the Presidency, was in a lock with Bush. We waited for hours and hours and stayed up all night, and in the morning still didn’t know who was the leader of the free world.

The week before the inauguration, the Onion ran a satirical story,  “Bush: ‘Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over.’” At the time, it was sort of funny, ha-ha. We laughed, but were uneasy.

While I knew a lot of people who didn’t like Bush and preferred the other guy, there were plenty of lefties who voted for Ralph Nader, having bought Nader’s pitch that Bush and Gore were essentially the same and voted for Nader. I knew they weren’t at all the same; I knew that on women’s issues and gay rights Gore and Bush were further apart than the Israelis and the Palestinians. I knew that Bush was a born-again Christian hellbent on pushing his binary vision of the world, good  and evil, and was sure that he would push legislation that he thought would work to banish his definition of “evil.”

That Onion article, it turned out, predicted, with frightening accuracy, all of the things that I feared.

Could the writers of the Onion really been thinking this would become a reality?
“During the 40-minute speech, Bush also promised to bring an end to the severe war drought that plagued the nation under Clinton, assuring citizens that the U.S. will engage in at least one Gulf War-level armed conflict in the next four years.”

Here we are, six years after Shock and Awe in Iraq failed to shock or awe, we are still in Iraq, with our troops stretched thin, and needed to battle forces in Afghanistan. People forget, also, that Bush, when when he wasn’t taunting Iran, essentially threatened and bullied North Korea, and if Iraq had been the cakewalk they had been predicting, we would have no doubt gone into another war, for absolutely no good reason.

Perhaps my favorite passage:
“We as a people must stand united, banding together to tear this nation in two,” Bush said. “Much work lies ahead of us: The gap between the rich and the poor may be wide, be there’s much more widening left to do. We must squander our nation’s hard-won budget surplus on tax breaks for the wealthiest 15 percent. And, on the foreign front, we must find an enemy and defeat it.”

And how scary accurate is this fake-prediction-turned-true?

“On the economic side, Bush vowed to bring back economic stagnation by implementing substantial tax cuts, which would lead to a recession, which would necessitate a tax hike, which would lead to a drop in consumer spending, which would lead to layoffs, which would deepen the recession even further.”

The unemployment rate is 7.2 percent, the highest since after the second World War; people are foreclosing on their homes; and I have so many friends who are out of work it’s hard now to swallow that pill that Nader was selling. Does anyone believe today that Gore and Bush were basically one and the same?

By the time Bush was elected in 2004, I had printed out and taped a piece of paper that was a mock-up of  a Time magazine cover. It was a picture of W. with a “who me?” look on his face over a black background, and the words, “We’re Fucked,” emblazoned across the top. I looked at that picture every single day. This time, I am looking forward to giving myself a more optimistic outlook. I just needed a little hope and man named Barack Obama.

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